Honoka - Twilight Star Circus: The Inverted Emperor

Description: Honoka has larger ambitions in mind for the King of Fighters tournament, but as Elise shows, the future is not so clear-cut. Fortune favors the bold, but only fools dare to rush in...

It's always schoolgirls.

There's something about the approach of summer that makes them want to have their fortunes told. Probably because for most modern young women, what really excites them about the future is the possibility of love. Not necessarily because it's what they really want or expect and perhaps more because of a cultural barrage of messages telling them time and again that they need to be beautiful and desirable and snag a man as young as possible so that their lives will be complete. But for teens, this sort of proposition is unstable and confusing, and in the absence of any sort of real experience telling them how the human heart works, seemingly superstitious fortunetelling fills in the gaps, makes them feel a sense of security about their actions.

Or at least that's what an expert con artist like Elise Harkness understands about the situation.

Perhaps if she had more strict scruples she'd feel bad about what she does, but in truth, she doesn't. They're young, they often have money to burn, and in the case of young women who are the daughters of, say, political movers and shakers, having an ally in their home can be very, very useful. And since most teen romance ends in disaster anyway, her job is amazingly easy. She doesn't even need to use her actual psychic gifts in any significant capacity, for the most part; it comes down to giving the girl either permission to do something she already wants to do, or 'insurance' that something she's unsure about doing won't end in disaster.

And so it goes that with the summer school break approaching, that sort of visitor to Elise's carefully-constructed Realistic Romany Wagon™ is common. Anyone approaching it would see two young girls in the uniform of a VERY prestigious girls' school leaving it and heading out, giggling excitedly.

The taller one's going to finally ask the boy she likes out. Which is gonna suck for her friend who secretly wants to ask the taller one out.

Springtime is good for business, and romance is even better. The Twilight Star Circus has been enjoying the fruits of its sponsorship of the Rumble in the Streets tournament, with attendance figures skyrocketing in comparison with this same time last year. And with higher attendance comes, naturally, more love-stricken teenagers.

The circus' star juggler isn't coming to visit Miss Harkness' trailer with idealized notions of love in her mind's eye, however -- she's here on business of some sort, possibly related to the magazine she has tucked under one arm. She can certainly appreciate the enthusiasm of the two teens as they depart the trailer: Honoka twiddles her fingers in a friendly wave, bowing her head in mute encouragement. There's no need to restate the obvious: they've received news that they're happy with. And there's no need for the psychic to be nosy, as she has a pretty good feel for exactly -why- they're happy with said news. She's happy enough to allow the two to pass without further ado -- they weren't here to see the -juggler-, after all.

Three light raps of her knuckles upon the doorframe. "Elise? It's Honoka, may I come in...?" As she is admitted entrance, Honoka raises her hand to her long bangs, brushing the black and pink tendrils out of her eyes as they adjust to the subdued light. She closes her eyes for a moment, reaching out with her senses for a moment... and then opens them again, pleased with what she's found.

Or rather, what she's not found: the two young ladies who just departed.
"Well, those two certainly seemed happy. It'll probably be an... interesting week for the both of them." The younger psion may not be able to read -exact- thoughts, but she didn't exactly come here to talk about these two ladies.

She holds up the magazine cover so that Elise can see it. It's a fashion magazine, showing off the latest from Busan. And on the cover is a young Korean woman, who looks similar to Honoka but a bit more athletic. The magazine is all in Korean, except for a placard at the bottom written in cursive English: 'Chae Lim Designs.'

"Have you heard of this girl before?" Honoka seems quite taken with the magazine, offering it up for Elise's inspection as she takes a seat. "I was looking through her designs and they look -amazing-."

When Honoka enters, Elise is clearly tidying the place up; the table in the center of the room has a spread of tarot cards on it, a variety of different cards. Notable, since the stereotyped vision of tarot readings almost always focuses on the Major Arcana, a tiny fraction of the deck itself, but the cards Elise laid out for the girls who just left have an overabundance of Cups represented. The only maor arcana visible is the Tower, which... required some spin even if those girls knew nothing about the tarot.

"Heard of who, love?" the Scot asks, without turning to look. She herself is dressed in what can only be called her 'work outfit': the very traditional, if vaguely more sexualized, vision of the European hedge witch oufit, straight out of the 'Sexy [x]' part of (an admittedly very upscale and expensive) Halloween costume catalog. Taking the pointed witch hat off and hanging it on a hook, Elise turns now and actually looks at Honoka and her magazine cover. "Is she who's behind this sporty new look of yours?" she asks, brushing her hair out behind her with her hands and settling languidly into the chair. "The name isn't familiar to me. But perhaps I should pay more attention."

Extending an arm outward, fingers pointing, Elise looks along the sight line the act creates. "To be honest I'm a little dissatisfied with my own look. I've been thinking of having someone whip me up something iconic and fun. What's the point of money and influence if you can't waste them on frivolous things like fashion?"

"Chae Lim," pronounces Honoka, "an amateur designer from South Korea." She pauses, wrinkling her nose for a moment just to make -sure- she and Elise are the only ones listening. "... Our 'friends' brought this magazine back from Busan. Small-scale bespoke operation, no huge factory connection yet..."

Honoka smiles cheerily in response to the flattery: Elise's opinion of her attire means the world to the star juggler, after all. "Kinda-sorta, yeah. I think this one was from page thirty-something, but hey, next day shipping." Considering the number of Korean and Zainichi personnel which have been added to the organization's contact list in the past few months, it should come as no surprise that the juggler has made some new friends, indirectly though they may be.

"But yeah. She's getting more popular, so I figure it won't be long before her popularity explodes. Might be worth a visit, I'm sure she can cook up something fun for you! She'd probably love to add a few shots of you to her catalog, too."

Honoka flips the magazine open, withdrawing an envelope with a wax seal from the pages of the magazine. It... doesn't seem to be part of the standard circulation. She quietly leaves the envelope in her lap for now, having the other matter to discuss first. "She's also quite accomplished in tae kwon do. And from the sound of it, she might be getting a bit bored of staying in South Korea all the time, which might make it even -easier- for us to speak with her..."

It doesn't take a psychic to know that Honoka is definitely up to something.

Crossing one leg over the other, Elise leans back in her chair somewhat, sitting sidelong to Honoka, listening carefully to what she's talking about. While the gap in their ages isn't particularly wide -- a mere four years -- there are times when the Scot feels positively motherly toward the Ainu girl. To her eyes, buried under the offhandedness of this discussion, she feels a little bit happy to hear Honoka talk about... well, normal girl stuff, as it were. A tiny part of her wonders if deep down she's not interested in Chae Lim because the idea of having a girl her age to talk to who Seems Cool would be something she wants.

"Perhaps I'll try to make an introduction. I do have so precious few contacts in South Korea, after all. It must be because I'm not a big fan of video games or kimchi." A memory comes up and she laughs, tracing a finger along the edge of the table. "Did you know some high-level geondal--" And here, she stumbles over the word, clearly barely remembering it "--wanted me to predict the outcome of his son's... oh, goodness. One or other of those awful games with the obsessive clicking involved. Star Warcraft? Something like that. I've no problem with digital diversions but I draw the line at trying to play prophet to a Korean gangster's gamer kid."

Uncrossing her legs, she turns to face Honoka, eyes tracking the removal of the envelope from the magazine for a moment but letting it pass without comment. This is the girl's way, after all; small talk, then business. It's not an unpleasant way to do things. Shows she cares. "I imagine if she's a taekwondo expert then she must be quite flexible. Could make a good acrobat, perhaps," she says blithely, gathering up the read tarot cards and gingerly shuffling them back into the deck, the heavy and elaborate cards making a quiet but persistent *tk tk tk* sound in the process.

Geondal, Jopok -- the South Korean mafia. It's a word Honoka has come to learn over the past few months, a word despised by some of her new associates, and embraced by others. The juggler's brow furrows slightly in commisseration over the pronunciation difficulties, but she nods quietly once the sentiment is communicated. "Eesh. It's pretty amazing how seriously they take gaming over there. But... that also leads to a lot of proficiency with computers. Way out of my league, as far as that stuff's concerned." Despite her dexterity with the tools she -can- use, the juggler is humble about her talents with technology, preferring to let people like the aforementioned geondal's son lead the vanguard on the digital battlefield.

"Mmm... flexible, yes, I'm -sure- we can put her talents to work in the circus if she were to choose something like that. She... probably still has her own agenda, though. And I'm told it's not that wise to pull people -too- far from their chosen path, after all." A mischievous smile plays across Honoka's features, as she winks back at the Scot -- the bearer of good advice.

"I was thinking about -this- though..." And this is when Honoka pulls open the envelope -- the seal was broken some time ago. "Are you well-rested enough to take a crack at another tournament? I'd love for you to have another opportunity to showcase your talents."

The invitation is withdrawn, and presented for Elise's inspection. "King of Fighters. This one will be a team tournament -- two of us will be fighting at a given time. And you needn't even fight for all the rounds, either. Oboro's already shown an interest, along with me, of course." Her raven-and-rose locks shuffle for a moment as she leans back in her seat, adding, "And... Zach will be going, with a mask and a new name. Does the name... 'Rhydderch' hold any particular value for you?"

The invitation gets a low whistle from Elise when it makes an appearance. When she'd spied the envelope she noticed the wax seal, a very Old Worlde touch that piqued her interest (and marked the contents as particularly special). And when said envelope reappears, well... even people who aren't part of the fighting world would recognize KoF, one of the biggest and most famous fighting events that can occur... though historically, also one that seems to be sort of cursed in terms of something going Massively Wrong at the very end. Not that the general public knows this, of course.

"How very interesting," she says, glancing at the invitation. There are a bevy of questions swirling around in her head at the moment, vis-a-vis that invitation. Why did Honoka -- and by extension the circus -- even get one, for starters. The answer could be as simple as 'she's a very public fighter', of course, but Elise has a naturally suspicious personality. The second is, what sort of people are going to be drawn to this tournament... and how can potential answers to that question be turned to Twilight Star's advantage.

Also: what should she wear?

Those questions are forestalled, a bit, by Honoka's description of what the team would even consist of. Despite the two of them working in the same circus, Oboro is sort of a... she knows him. They've met. But have they ever talked? Still, Honoka doesn't invite just anyone to be a part of this outfit. But then she mentions Zach, and the Scot cannot help but laugh helplessly.

"Oh lord, hen," she says, chuckling. "A mysterious masked fighter? Ostentatiously named after a Welsh king with a magic sword that reacted to the worthy. Well, why think small, I say."

There's a pause, and Elise clears her throat. Zach and Honoka's sort-of-a-romance is always going to be the cause of Oneesama Feels from the witch and she can't help it. "I imagine you'll be able to handle things just fine on your own, but it could be an interesting diversion, if you'd like me along. In truth, even if I weren't fighting, I should go with you. All sorts will be in evidence in the crowd... a good chance to, ah, network."

Extending her hand, she nods her head at the invitation. "May I?"

Honoka's commisserating smile suggests that she's sure Elise will find -something- fabulous to wear. She always does, after all.

The juggler listens as the fortuneteller communicates what she knows about the Welsh King. She wasn't able to write down the name exactly, and hadn't had the forethought to look up the fabled hero before meeting with Elise, but her confidante's words affirm what her boyfriend had said.

"It's what he wants to do," Honoka says, showing the first signs of an growing frown. She shrugs mildly, explaining, "He's been wanting to push himself further along the path of actually -using- his talents. It's like the memories of the tournament have... sparked some memories of his other life. He's... unhinged. Unfettered. He even..."
Honoka closes her eyes, and presses her lips together. It's a painful memory, whatever it is -- a recent one.

She chooses not to elaborate on it, finding herself at a rare loss for words as she hands the envelope over. Perhaps she received one as a result of her showing in the Rumble in the Streets. Or perhaps it was from her flawless win record -- as Honoka Kawamoto, at least -- in her Saturday Night Fight appearances to date, besting international stars Lightning Spangles and Johnny Cage. She doesn't know -- and from her own research, she can't even be sure.

But as she hands the envelope over, she draws in her breath, finding the misplaced words once again. "Zach says the King of Fighters tournaments were... troublesome, for his other self. He feels that he needs to be stronger. To push himself harder. And..."

It's difficult for Honoka to really and truly -know- what's in Elise's mind. And it's probably vice-versa, which is why the Ainu woman is trying to make sure she speaks her mind completely.
"I don't know what will happen. But Zach lost himself for a moment, fighting me. He tapped into some part of his psyche I'd never expected him to use against me. And if it happens again...

Raven and rose locks bob again, as Honoka's shoulders tense up. Her fingers lace together. "I trust Zach... -mostly?- But if he loses himself again, I want people I can count on."

People who trust Honoka more than they trust the self-proclaimed wielder of the Dyrnwyn.

For a moment, Elise's face goes quite serious, uncharacteristically so. Honoka's flip-with-a-smile way of dealing with life is one of her charms, but it also means that when something's bothering her -- REALLY bothering her -- it shows, provided she's in a situation where she feels she can actually let her defenses down. Not for the first time, Elise feels a bit of pride that her presence is one of those times.

She's still uncomfortable whenever the subject of the 'other world' comes up. Unlike Honoka (or Zach), Elise has no memories of this other life beyond the veil, and despite being a witch, she is naturally distrustful of things she can't confirm for herself. But she also trusts Honoka, and knows that this is a Serious Subject. "I see. Well... that's a lie, I DON'T see, but you clearly do and that's enough for me. So put your worries aside there for the time being. Now, let's see that--"

She doesn't finish the sentence. Why? Very noticably, as soon as her hand touched the invitation to take it from Honoka, she... for lack of a better phrasing, locks up. It's not extreme or anything; her eyes don't widen and she doesn't start glowing or whatever. But she does very abruptly stops talking, her gaze looking at some distant point. Her breathing is regular. But for a long long few seconds, she says nothing.

And then, after an instant that feels like an eternity, she snaps out of it, taking a slow but deep breath in. She doesn't take the invitation, after all. In fact, she says nothing, but instead reaches for the tarot deck she'd recently shuffled and takes it into her hands. For a moment, she simply stares at it, then flips over three cards, in sequence:

The Emperor, reversed.
The Tower.
The Wheel of Fortune.

Three major arcana, a statistically improbable result. And one that, well...


Honoka occasionally feels guilty about dumping all her problems on Elise -- the Scot always feels so worldly and wizened, too -above- whatever petty matters the airheaded juggler could bring up. It's not the truth, and she continually reminds herself of such, but Honoka gets that attitude from so many 'adults' that she's just conditioned herself into playing the part of the foolish girl. It's difficult to pattern to break out of, at least without exerting her considerable powers.

And -- it's those powers she finds herself relying on, as the fortuneteller touches the invitation, suddenly locking up without a word. Honoka draws in her breath, a frown darkening her unmarred features as she stares back at Elise. Her eyes lose focus, as she begins to plumb deeper.
To think that she could have -injured- her confidante by being careless, by not spending more time examining the invitation herself. It's a fear -- an irrational one -- but a fear nonetheless. The frown deepens.

And then the fortuneteller moves again. Honoka senses the change in attitude, and visibly relaxes, her lungs resuming the flow of fresh air into her lungs once again.
The fear was not unjustified, hm. While Elise cannot confide in the existence of the other path, she can confide in what she feels now -- a very different set of clues than those Honoka knows how to access.

Honoka's voice is calm and measured. "Take all the time that you need."

She knows that, whatever the cards read, could have grave importance to her. Intentional prevarications may please the doe-eyed students from before, but Honoka is not so easily sated, nor misled. These are serious cards -- the juggler psion can tell that much from her confidante's notable lack of sardonic witticisms.

It does take a while. Elise draws a finger across each card in turn with languid, abstract slowness, as if they were braille she was trying to read, or if there were some invisible glyph on them she was trying to write into existence with the trace of her finger. "You know, people who don't know anything about the craft think the 'magic' is that the tea leaves or the cards or whatever it is you're using arrange *themselves* and you just sort of blunder into them," she says conversationally, without taking her eyes from the three card spread. "It's the sort of thing the stupid masses like to believe. And it's nonsense. Takes all the power out of your own hands." There's a pause, a deep breath. "It's the sort of thinking that weak-minded people like. Absolves them of responsibility. It was..." And here, she wiggles her fingers in the air in the universal gesture for 'spooky', "...'forces at work'. But the truth is that it's you that does it. Subconsciously. You arrange things where they should be, and then at the right moment, you notice them."

It is without question the most Elise has ever said about the more mystical side of her powers, and *definitely* the first time she's ever performed what you would call a literal, real and true using of future sight for Honoka. The rest of her skills are comparatively mundane; many others can do what she does. The gift of prophecy is the Harkness bloodline's power, though.

One Elise HATES using.

With one last deep breath, she looks up at Honoka, deadly serious. "Your man's right to be nervous, according to the cards, hen," she says, voice thick with distraction and consternation. "Do you know how these are read? Three card spreads are simple but useful. The three can mean anything... past, present, and future? Context, problem, solution? Usually you read the cards with a question in your mind, but this was..." How to explain it? A momentary disconnection from reality that manifested itself the best way she could think of. Perhaps, when she was shuffling the cards before, this was always in the working, and the invitation was merely the trigger. Elise doesn't REALLY know for certain, though she wouldn't admit this even under torture.

"The Emperor is a male figure of power and authority, but reversed, he's a tyrant, a poor ruler. The Tower signifies problems, coming disasters. And the Wheel, well... the wheel is anyone's guess. It could mean change is coming, or it could mean that the future is uncertain yet, vulnerable to change."

It is comforting for Honoka and Elise to be able to speak so freely with each other -- to intermingle their public and private personas without fear of judgment, nor need of unwieldy explanations. The bubbly and underprepared juggler persona has left the room, replaced with a calm and introspective woman who innately understands the context from which Elise is speaking. A conversational tone is attained, even one in which jokes are made of the fortuneteller's clientele -- and yet, Honoka takes it at face value. Because: why shouldn't she? She would be able to know if Elise was lying.

But moreover, Honoka is glad to be on the receiving end of a truly -meaningful- reading. The atmosphere in the room ebbs, at least from Honoka's perspective: in a subtle way, she feels as if the room is growing larger on the inside at an uninterminably slow rate -- and yet, there comes a moment where she can't even sense the walls at all.

When Elise meets her with a serious look, Honoka is right there with her. The walls -- never changed. And her eyes are completely lucid, completely focused. The Ainu woman doesn't have a name for what she's just experienced -- but it was real. This isn't a sideshow. She nods slowly, placing the invitation back into its envelope as carefully as if it were laced with anthrax and she needs to get it to the FBI -- or a hospital.

"A poor ruler and coming disaster... combined with a volatile situation."

Honoka's look becomes... less grim. Not a smile, but moreso than a frown.

"Would it be accurate, then, to consider this an... opportunity for progress?"

"I wish I knew," comes the answer, as Elise leans back in her chair, crossing her arms and sighing.

Is that... frustration?

She makes a sweep of her hand through the air, palm up, indicating the still-spread cards. "It could mean a lot of things. That's the problem with this. It COULD mean so many things. When your knowledge of the future is so... vague, sometimes it's better not to know it at all." Which is the truth. Part of the reason that Elise is so anxious about using genuine foresight is that it can complicate matters even more than it can fix them. So you've seen the future... is it guaranteed to pass? Will your efforts to avert it cause it to become instead? Plenty of unanswered questions.

"If you want my professional opinion, I think we're being warned about a powerful person. Probably a man, but that's no guarantee. If you hadn't said anything about Zach's unsettled feelings, I don't know that I'd even pay this any mind. But that 'other world'... that's the variable we don't have information about, no matter what you or he feel like you remember."

A long silence passes before she gathers up the three cards and gingerly places them back in the deck. "I think we should just... be cautious. Not that we aren't, always, already. This just gives me a... a bad feeling."

She isn't going to say 'it's scary'. Even though it is.

Honoka can read the expressions in Elise's face, and the agitation in her aura. The two women have known each other long enough to understand that they can hide no secrets from one another -- the Ainu woman understands the general sense of frustration, and knows it is not without cause.

"Perhaps," replies Honoka. She agrees that it might not exactly -help- to know it all... and yet she feels that peering into the future was not without benefit. "Still, knowing of the dangers is preferable to approaching with a false sense of security." She nods quietly, heeding the warnings of caution -- and she understands that there's really only so much that can be said about that.

The juggler rises, tucking the envelope back into the fashion magazine from Busan. Her lips turn up into a slight grin, her hair bobbing gently as she nods her head. "Caution is why I'd wanted you to come along." Warnings of a powerful person, possibly ill tidings to come -- and visions of an alternate future that goes much worse.

"Whatever this... tournament entails... I may not be a fortuneteller, but I feel that we'll be able to handle it, together."

Honoka bows her head, stepping for the door. "Thank you, Elise. I'll get some contact numbers to you -- do let me know if you're able to get in touch with our darling new fashion designer."
The Ainu woman slips out the door, though not without sharing one more of her enigmatic smiles. "I'm sure we'll all have lots to talk about."

Log created on 18:47:11 05/23/2016 by Honoka, and last modified on 07:19:07 05/24/2016.