Description: Following through on her promise to Honoka, Elise Harkness finally makes her move on Zach Glenn, 'running into' him in the Sleeping Dragon restaurant. Over a cup of warm sake, there's a bit of banter, and perhaps the prelude to a little meddling.
The Sleeping Dragon is one of the newer establishments in Southtown's Chinatown district, but you might not know it to look at it. The place, while doing a brisk business, seems like it could use some repairs. And possibly an exterminator. And a visit from whoever it is that rounds up stray pet animals. But aside from all of that, you'd be hard pressed to find a place that serves better food. Plus, it's the evening rush, so there are less empty tables than there are tables with people sitting at them.
Captain Zach Glenn, United States Marine and professional fighter, sits at one such table. He has a couple of empty plates next to him while he sips on a bowl of stew. He seems to be keeping to himself, but he /does/ engage people when they approach. He's polite, tips generously according to the couple of Gedo High students working there, and has helped keep things peaceful on occasion. Fights tend not to break out while he's around.
It starts with a post-it note on her door, one morning:
'sleeping dragon, evenings, regular, american'
It was a lead. And only a lead, but a useful one. The information filtered back to her through... let's call them channels. To be more specific, let's call them unwitting but highly useful aggregators of information. What one doesn't notice in a restaurant, especially a busy one, is the people doing the grunt work. The blue-haired girl who brings you the dim sum. The laconic redhead who dutifully stacks freshly-washed ceramic ramen bowls on the counter. A filter so hidden even they don't really know it. But like a message in a bottle, carried along a curious yet purposeful tide to the shore, information creeps along.
This starts the rotating series of delivery and takeout orders. They're never the same person twice. Not a visible tie to the circus if it's avoidable. And because all they're doing is retrieving Chinese food for a hungry and grateful fortuneteller, they don't raise suspicion.
What she sees in their minds, when they return, is enough.
Tonight, she makes her move.
The door to the Sleeping Dragon open and then shuts with the jingle of a 'welcome!' bell. The woman who walks in is... well, maybe a little overdressed for this. A long, rich purple gown, shoulderless, slit up the left side. A dull bronze cameo in the shape of a camellia blossom is pinned to the dress's left breast, and a faux-fur stole of a rich autumn-bronze color -- fake fox fur, likely -- is wrapped about her shoulders. Removing the black cotton coat she was wearing over it, the woman smiles to the nearest waitstaff with a smile. "I'll just seat myself, shall I? Thank you, sweetie," The waitress nods, seemingly not caring, and with due speed, Elise Harkness makes her way to the table just across from Zach Glenn's and settles herself into the chair, draping her coat over the opposite chair and picking up the menu, glancing at it idly.
Zach is mid-sip when Elise sits down. His only immediate reactions are a pause in the actual consumption of the broth, and a single raised eyebrow. The eyebrow stays up as Zach finishes drinking on the stew. The bowl is set down precisely as he swallows his food, before sliding the still full bowl aside for the moment. He is silent as he considers things for a moment, before grinning slightly.
"Miss Harkness," the Marine says politely. "I was considering paying you a visit at some point. It's a pleasant surprise that you seem to be saving me the trip." He's not sure /what/ to expect, but he seems to be expecting something. He had, after that trip to the circus, sat down in front of his computer and made extensive use of Google and a few other assets to find out what he could about the Twilight Star Circus. The difference between knowing and not knowing whatever he could learn seemed terribly important at the time.
An eyebrow goes up before she turns to Zach, the soft fall of auburn hair obscuring her face from the side pushed away before Elise turns in her chair to regard the man sitting near her. A consummate con artist, she is beyond expert at keeping her true intentions and emotions carefully controlled, her thoughts to herself... something buoyed by the arcane power of her bloodline, on an instinctive level. To all appearances, she seems genuinely surprised, letting the hint of a smile tug at the corner of her lips. "Oh, my... I'd hoped I wouldn't be quite so conspicuous right off the bat," the woman says, her voice rich with the low tones of her alto range and the quirks of her Scottish accent tugging at the vowel sounds in every word she speaks. "I suppose not everyone walks in here looking as if they've just had a night at the opera."
This is, after all, a little bit of wordplay, a clever little lie; Elise knows that her arrival in Southtown was wreathed with the pleasant note of public scandal that any figure in her position actually *wants*. Everyone knows her, everyone is curious... and this is a thing she can use.
"That said, I'm afraid you have the best of me, Mr...?" She pauses, then tilts her head, as if she were studying the man, trying to size him up, gauge him. In truth, she is running through information she already knows, available through rather more mundane sources than 'fortunetelling'. "Perhaps... Major?" She steps it up by one, deciding that a little flattery can't hurt... or that he'll enjoy correcting her.
Zach grins a bit, his thoughts behind mental walls that may remind one of a castle if castles were made of steel instead of stone. He leans forward, resting his elbows on the table. Horrible manners, to be sure, but it shows that Zach is honestly more interested in what is in front of him than the food he was just enjoying. That might be telling to anyone who knows Zach. He may be having fun at this game, even if he's not entirely sure of the rules. He's playing his own game, but that does not mean the two are mutually exclusive.
"Glenn," he says politely, still with that faint grin. "Captain Zach Glenn, United States Marine Corps. But I would bet that you already knew the name, if not the rank, Miss Elise Harkness." He considers for a moment. "Would it be too forward if I suggested that you could call me Zach if I could call you Elise?"
He's flirting. But that's alright by Elise; it's what she's built for. You can't blame someone for throwing the ball back at you once you've started a game of catch. "I'm not the sort of girl that stands on ceremony... Captain," the Scot says sweetly, leaning back in her chair somewhat and extending a hand -- perhaps she really WAS at the opera, given the white gloves she appears to be wearing -- in a lazy gesture toward one of the waitresses, the blue-haired one who's likely a local student. When the girl comes close, Elise smiles at her. "Some warm sake, if you would. To take the chill out of this bloody winter weather, thanks so much." She then turns back to Zach, seemingly uninterested in what happens next once she's given her order. It's the sort of gesture the wealthy are used to making in eating establishments, but the secret is that it actually usually works. Case in point: Miss Blue Hair blinks and then trundles off to retrieve this woman's drink without question.
"And might I say, it's refreshing to find someone who doesn't immediately start a conversation about how I must have used my mystical powers to discern your identity?" Elise says, chuckling to herself, slowly removing the white gloves from her hands and the fur from her shoulders and folding both in her lap. "This is 2015. Even for those with the Sight..." and the capital S on 'Sight' is strong enough to be identified in her speech, "...one would be amazed what you can find with a smartphone and access to Google."
Zach nods to the young woman holding up two fingers, to indicate that he'd like some for himself. This is not, at first blush, a confrontation. "Or by simply asking questions," he says amicably enough. "Having conversations." The young woman returns with the sake. Zach waits for Elise to sample hers first before sipping at his own.
"But I know exactly what you mean by that," he says after the waitress leaves. "Thank you, by the way, for not laying on some tripe about how some mystical pull bringing you here to this table." He considers for a moment. "So what really brings you here tonight? I'm guessing it's not the food, but I'd have to argue that you're missing out if you at all like Chinese."
The white cup comes to her lips and Elise Harkness drinks a sip of warmed sake as if she were born to it. And in truth, not all of this is an act; she has an appreciation for these sorts of moments, the savoring of a hot drink on a cold night, and perhaps more importantly the feel of eyes in the room on her. A performer to her core, to Elise, the social graces are a very special sort of improv. Negotiating their unwritten rules, picking up on cues and leads, threading between dangerous areas... it has a certain thrill all its own, no matter who your dance partner.
Putting the fine white china up on her table, the fortune teller gives Zach a cheshire cat smile. "My dear, a reputation for exquisite sake, being close by, and -10º celsius weather brought me to this table. That there was some of interest nearby happens to be an interesting coincidence, nothing more." Now it's her turn to wait as Zach takes a drink of sake himself, but she continues talking once the cup is on its way to his lips... in fact, she specifically WAITS for that moment, when he is literally drinking, to continue. "I believe we have a mutual... friend?" Elise ventures. "You appear to have made quite an impression on an acquaintance of mine."
Zach finishes his sip; he takes sake very seriously in more than one turn of the phrase. He doesn't spill or sputter, but instead sets his own cup down. The grin widens only slightly as he gives a light chuckle. "Acquaintance might be the right word," he says with a touch of cheer. There it is. "How's she doing, by the way?"
Now Zach has a few questions that he's not quite ready to ask. Did Elise come on her own, or did Honoka send her? For that matter, regardless of who sent whom, was Elise her on her own free will? He almost immediately discards that question; Zach's starting to get /something/ of a feel for the woman in front of him. Mental manipulation wouldn't be a very effective tool with Elise Harkness. She's a willing party and, unless guesses were missed, somewhere in Honoka's inner circle.
"Keeping busy," Elise says in a distant, neutral tone, holding her cup out in front of her and glancing into it. The gaze has all the overtones reminiscent of a fortuneteller glancing into the tea leaves at the bottom of a cup, attempting to glean some sort of meaning out of the Rorschach-like patterns of detritus swirling about after the tea's been drunk. As it is, she sees only the steaming, pale gold-white sake left in her cup. She lets a smile cross her face, but doesn't look up from the cup as she continues to talk. "You know how it is with young ones like that," she says airily, though Elise herself can't be more than a few years older than Honoka. Of course, the Ainu girl still has plenty of ability to pass as a schoolgirl, while the way Miss Harkness carries herself is carefully crafted to convey 'mature woman'.
Taking a quick shot of her drink, the Scot places her cup on the table and grins back at Zach. "She doesn't know I've come," the fortuneteller says with a fox-like grin. The impression that she's reading his mind isn't hard to give, because there's only so many questions he must be wondering about; she chose one and rolled with it. A calculated risk, but that's the only kind Elise takes. "I imagine if she knew she'd be MOST upset with me for meddling. You know how it goes."
Zach /knows/ she's not reading his mind; he isn't lacking or slacking in the mental discipline department. However, the options she could have chosen from are fairly obvious and simple. It's all part of the game, really. There have been more than a few times Zach has taken advantage of people knowing that his powers stem from his mind in order to gain an advantage. Still, the smile's still in place, and widens a bit when Elise claims to be here on her own. Whether or not that is actually true, Zach can't be sure. Nor, after a moment of contemplation, does it really /matter/ in this case.
"So you're here," Zach says, a tone of faint amusement in his voice, "By dint of weather and coincidence, all on your own." Zach sips at his drink. "It's hard not to be flattered," he admits. And speaking of admission, "But I don't see just yet, how this conversation between two people who only now met, counts as meddling."
Glenn shrugs as he leans back in his chair. "I mean, I know I'm not meddling, and you've done a remarkable job of not showing any of your cards."
"I never show my cards, darling," Elise says with a smile. That's the truth, for sure, but she delivers the line with a sort of pleasant sweetness intended to take some of the sting out of it, as if she were suggesting a charmed circle consisting only of herself and Zach. "But I also don't let opportunities go to waste, either. And, might I add, *you* introduced yourself to *me*." She raises an eyebrow, inclining her head at her sake cup bemusedly. The fact that she's right on that point emboldens her.
"As for meddling... you're right. I've done nothing of the sort. Yet, anyway." She salutes Zach with her cup in an imaginary toast before draining it at last and setting in on the table with a faint, hollow *clink!*. "Though I'd be happy to meddle on your behalf, if that's what's on your mind. I rather enjoy meddling. So much more interesting than being a good girl."
Zach answers the toast with a raised cup, and finishes his own drink. "Now be fair," Zach says, "I was sitting here first, and we both knew who the person sitting across from them was." The jibe is polite, as if it were the reiteration of a private joke between the two. It also has the bonus of being true. Most people are not so bold as to share a table with a total stranger in a venue like this. "It's not like I was /really/ introducing myself. Just doing it officially, is all."
Zach considers for a moment. "That'd require me to know what I wanted out of the whole situation, Miss Harkness," Zach says in a nonchalant tone of voice. "Some days, I'm not even really sure." He's still grinning, but this grin is more relaxed, more comfortable. Maybe it's because he's starting to see things a bit more clearly.
"Who does in this day and age?" Elise says, gathering the fur stole and gloves in her lap before rising to her feet. For a woman, she's relatively tall; shorter than Zach would be if he were also standing, but by a very small margin. It's the carriage of her body -- well, and the sleek cut of a long dress, which emphasizes verticality with its narrowness -- that makes her seem 'tall' to many onlookers, however. "That's my business, Captain: helping people find what they desire, even if they're not sure what it is they're looking for. Or... who they're looking for, maybe?"
The game is all implication, but that's alright by her. And really, looking back on her life, that IS what she's done: given people an outlet for their desires. It's not Elise's fault if what she did was emphasize things she knew people wanted but were afraid to SAY they wanted: money, companionship, an excuse to let loose their inhibition. As companion and advisor to the rich, she was all of these and more. But they were ignorant, guileless.
Prey that has some fight to it is way more fun.
A hand comes up to the top of her shoulderless dress and, improbably, Elise pulls a white business card from her cleavage, an improbable Hollywood move that nevertheless is impressive, visually, anyway. The card's info is basic -- a phone number, a name, an email address -- and the back is nothing but a twirling pattern of Celtic knots. "If you need a meddler... call me."
And with that, she's off into the cold once more.
Zach is also on his feet as she stands; it's the polite thing to do, after all. He accepts the card, and gives Elise a slight but elegant bow. "A pleasure meeting you, Miss Harkness," Zach says both jovially and politely. "I look forward to our next meeting." He waits for the woman to leave before sitting back down to finish his food. When he leaves, the tip is just as generous as usual.
Log created on 23:35:28 01/28/2015 by Elise, and last modified on 03:40:41 01/29/2015.