Description: When you have a special ability, you tend to seek out those of your own kind. Such it was with Elise Harkness and Honoka -- a special bond that allows them to see the benefits of working together rather than against one another.
The Twilight Star Circus moves as one big entourage from one city to the next. Many of the cast members stay in hotels, ryokan, or other housing facilities as they move from one town to the next -- it's pretty much up to them. But the "core" circus staff and the headline performers get their own trailers, and they can be pretty sweet. Honoka's looks much like any other, but it has a few purple stripes and stars for that added sense of panache.
On this fine evening, Honoka is in her trailer. Her hair is, quite simply, a mess -- she's managed to affix her purple hair extensions in, but hasn't bothered actually styling it yet. The juggler appears to have started putting on her costume, but, in a manic fit, tossed on a baggy, long-sleeved shirt and started writing furiously. She's alternating between adding annotations to index cards, and pinning them up onto a whiteboard and sketching out crude drawings.
It's winter, and really, that's a time when the fashion-conscious love to splurge on things. After all, clothing meant for dealing with winter weather is usually all about function over form: snow pants, parkas, big tromping snow boots. Thus the fashion industry goes out of its way to cater to the Aspen and Switzerland ski crowd, thinking up new and fantastic ways to look amazing without freezing off your extremities. And as someone whose role it is to walk in the public eye of capital-s Society, Elise Harkness is certainly that sort of person.
She is probably one of the only people in the Twilight Star Circus who will permit the sort of behavior she inspires as she walks across the lightly snow-dusted ground: catcalls and whistles from the workers. To her, such tawdry and borderline-misogynistic behavior is all part of the game, and it's a game she plays much better than anyone who'd be catcalling AT her ever will. "Wanna come warm me up, Ellie?!" shouts one such person as she strides by.
With a million-dollar smile, the Scot turns to him and says, "If you've been good!"
With a laugh, he throws back: "I haven't! I've been awful bad!"
Thus there's a smile on her face and laughter in the air as Elise reaches Honoka's trailer and rap-rap-raps on the door. Her auburn hair spills over her shoulders, capped with a small, round faux fur cap of buttercream off-white (in the Russian style), while a snug-looking wrap done up in genuine tartan plaid covers her arms and torso down past her waist, leaving only dark brown leather leggings visible below it. It's all topped off with a white scarf around her neck and matching tight knit gloves... and, perhaps to add insult to injury, a pair of dark dark green genuine ugg boots.
"Open up, dear," she adds, "it's bloody cold outside."
Not wanting to lose her train of thought, Honoka blurts, "I'll be right out!!!" without really giving it a second thought. Interruptions are frequent in the circus, but most people would tend to understand that the stars can be a little... well, flaky at times. Especially so for Honoka, who had let the rest of the circus believe she was attending community college in Southtown.
But the unmistakable voice of someone who really -ought- to be allowed in follows just moment later. It takes only another moment to finish the strokes, as she sticks the card to the board with a magnet and hurries to the door.
The door cracks open, just far enough to see that Elise is alone -- and then she opens up the door, blasting herself with cold air. Wrapping her arms about herself, she jerks her head to indicate that, yes, coming inside is a FANTASTIC idea. "Yes, do come in!"
Ushering Elise inside, the juggler flumps down onto her couch: there's room for one more person there, or Elise could sit on a barstool if she'd prefer. She raises an eyebrow at the hat, though: "... Well, that looks warm... where'd you get that hat?" The inside of the trailer could be described politely as 'eclectic' -- really, it's mostly filled with souvenirs of the various cities the circus has traveled to, and the mishmash of styles would be pretty embarassing if the media were to get a hold of it.
Honoka may have been a bit harried just moments before, but she has a broad smile on her face now. Relieved to see Elise? That's an understatement. "It's perfect timing, I've been wanting to talk to you... But that can wait. How did your trip go?"
"Uniqlo," Elise says in response, sweeping off her plaid shawl-coat-serapé thing in a dramatic twirl and draping it over a barstool to dry. The hat and the gloves come next, the Scot extending one arm and delicately pulling each glove off each hand and laying them gently down on the coat. The hat, however, she sort of just... tosses down. Apparently the coat and gloves came from something a little more upscale? "Don't tell anyone, would you? My credibility would be shot in a heartbeat." The high-fashion society miss wearing anything from what's likely Japan's version of Old Navy or Abercrombie and Fitch? She'd never hear the end of it!
She doesn't sit down, however, not yet; instead, the highlander witch sweeps into the tiny little kitchenette, looking for a kettle, cups, and tea bags or leaves. She's not a coffee drinker -- heaven forfend! -- but after that walk she could use a little warming up. As she rifles through cupboards and such looking for the paraphernalia to make tea, Elise does answer her question. "Exhausting. Fund-raising is such a chore. You've got to smile at perfectly AWFUL people and pretend like you've known them since you were both in shortpants when really all you'd like to do is press that delectable little canape they're eating into the back of their throat with a garden trowel."
There's a moment where she dips out of sight, ducking to pick something out of a cabinet, but she finally rises into vision again with a satisfied smile, holding a tea kettle. "But I was rather fortunate that a lot of people with money in Hokkaido seem to just adore New Age mysticism. A toast to the Ainu Party. Long may they reign." A brief pause. "Sweetie, promise me you have something in here that isn't green tea. If I don't get a cup of proper English Breakfast in me soon you're going to have to cart me out of here on a stretcher."
Uniqlo. Honoka can only grimace at that. So much for divine fashion insights. "... It'll just be our little secret." She knows how much the Scot prides herself on her fashion sense, and... well, Honoka also -trusts- her for her fashion sense, so it would probably be best to frown and smile whenever Elise frowns and smiles, in that regard. Fashion is something Honoka can appreciate, but much like the dubstep violin song on the kitchenette radio, picking fashion is not a talent that comes naturally to the performer, and she tends to rely on advice from the number of professionals among the circus.
Honoka can definitely sympathize with the woman as she talks about dealing with people. As of recent weeks, Honoka is actually getting a bit tired of it -- so she flashes a weary grin back at Elise. "I suppose so. Audiences are... a bit easier to cope with in that sense -- they're already predisposed towards smiling."
Once Honoka realizes that Elise is searching for something, she already has a faint idea what she'd be looking -for-. She -would- get up, but Elise has basically eliminated any -other- place for the teapot to reside, and watching her flounder is infinitely more entertaining. And besides, if she weren't watching, she wouldn't be able to withdraw the tin of tea from the side drawer she keeps it; when Elise turns back to look at her, a teabag of Earl Grey is already dangling from her fingertips.
"A toast, then!" She raises a cup of green tea she'd prepared earlier to Elise, with a faint smile. It -is- rather cold out.
"So... yes. The elections were a -smash-. I can't tell you how excited I was to read that. You've been rocksome out there, Elise! We're all making serious gains out there thanks to you."
Setting her teacup back down, she spares a glance at her whiteboard, before turning back to the Scot. "We... had a bit of a mishap in Niigata, though. Apparently some of the folks we were relying on... well, quite unfortunate, they got caught with their pants down. Pity we never really got to do anything with them yet, but... it sounds like they might be doing a special election soon. Keeping fingers crossed for that one -- I can go over the candidates with you in a bit." She pauses for a moment, smiling in apology. "After breakfast, of course."
Earl Grey? There's a brief flicker of 'oh really' on Elise's face but it passes pretty quickly as she reaches out and takes it, genuinely grateful. You have to imagine the endless tea times she had to endure on the campaign trail out in Hokkaido. "I'd heard. I know it sounds distressing, but you've got to view it as an opportunity rather than a setback. It's not as if you can turn back time and change it, after all," Elise says, leaning forward on the counter and toasting with her (empty) teacup, sneaking a look at the kettle as if she could will it to boil. Brushing a lock of brown-red hair out of her eyes, she gives a little yawn, then continues. "To be perfectly frank, darling, better to find out NOW that they weren't quality company, than when we were in bed with them, pulling the sheets up to our necks." Now there's a colorful metaphor.
There's a moment of silence before, at last, the kettle lets out a shrill whistle. Elise busies herself with taking it from the heat and pouring a cup full of steaming water, then dunking the teabag she was given in it a few times. Just having the cup in her hands, tendrils of steam rising into her face, seems to ease the woman's mood quite a bit. "Nature abhors a vacuum, you see, and people are no different there, are they? Just view this as a chance to get in on the ground floor with a new set of... contractors." Finally, she seems to finish with the teabag and deftly removes and then tosses it, before bringing the cup to her lips and taking a long sip. "Oh, marvelous. I've been waiting many weeks for you, my sweet."
Only now does she walk into the living area and have a seat on the couch, folding one shapely leg over the other and leaning back langorously, teacup held in both hands for warmth as much as anything else. "There'll be enough time for work in a bit. I hear tell you've been having quite a bit of fun here in Southtown. Anything... promising come out of it?" she asks, all innocence, keeping her eyes on Honoka as she takes another sip from the teacup.
"My feelings exactly," agrees Honoka -- though as Elise brushes the hair out of her eyes, so too does the juggler realize what disarray her own hair is in. She springs up to fetch her brush, before sitting back down on the couch as she tends to her hair while the teakettle goes through its thing. "Finding good help is such a bother though. I mean, I expected -some- things to start falling apart after Ohsaki, but I guess we haven't run into any more pockets of resistance. It's only a matter of time, really..."
Honoka trades the brush for her cup, giving it a small sip as the taller woman takes a seat beside her. "Oh... that. It's been... productive. My school won't even know what hit it ... but that'll be partly due to -everyone else- showing interest." She reaches over for her tablet, strewn as it is among -everything else- in the trailer -- and punches a few icons. "Tell me something, Elise... have you heard of NESTS before?" The tablet displays two pictures -- one of the Taiyo High Principal, and one of the Gedo High Principal. Both of them look -much- too handsome to be in charge of their respective schools -- not to mention, much too Caucasian. "It seems they're running the show now. And not even trying to hide it..." She flicks to another image showing massive destruction to Gedo High's main building, and then a second image showing its repair and refurbishment.
She glances over to Elise with a small frown: "And here I was worried about the -Syndicate-."
'NESTS'? The look of confusion on Elise's face is plain, and it more or less serves as her answer, too. "Can't say that I have, love. Are they some sort of... organization? A gang, perhaps?" There's a pause as she brings the teacup up to her lips and has another sip, making an 'mmm' sound in the back of her throat as she pulls the cup away. "I can't imagine they're major players with such a DREADFUL name. Rather sounds like the villains from one of those 'sentai' shows the Japanese love so much, yes? 'NESTS will get you next time!' while one of their commanders flies off on a rocket sled or some such garbage." She seems pleased with the mental image, allowing herself a chuckle.
She looks at the images on the tablets carefully, thinking this through. "Pardon my saying so but these gentlemen look AWFULLY Caucasian to be principals of Japanese schools, don't they? Ahaha, how deliciously brazen that is. I'd tip my hat to you if it weren't across the room," she says, saluting Honoka's tablet with her teacup instead. "You shouldn't underestimate schoolchildren though, sweetie. Most of it has been utter nonsense but a few of those girls from Seijyun that have dropped by have had the most interesting comments to drop about Daddy and his riches and, more importantly, his political leanings and dirty laundry. High school girls are positively TAWDRY creatures, love. My kind of people."
Honoka can't help but snicker as Elise shares the mental image she's constructed of NESTS. It's true -- it does sound like a monster-of-the-week organization, now that she calls attention to it. Perhaps it just didn't sound -that- weird to the Japan-acclimated juggler. "... See, that's the thing, I don't know anything about them other than that they're not really Japanese. They obviously have... some ties to the Bastion Corporation and the Atelier Group."
Honoka sips from her teacup as Elise stresses the need to give schoolchildren more time to figure this out. "Oh... believe me. If I were in the tournament I'd probably be finding out firsthand all about this magnificent Atelier pavilion that's been set up in the courtyard, but... it doesn't seem that anyone who's been in it ever has much to say about it. I'm hoping that my, er, contacts there can find more about it."
She frowns faintly, as the mention of Seijyun occurs to her again. "I'm glad you like the gossip, but before we move on... Seijyun... I've heard rumors of -some- girl from there with an umbrella. Has -she- been one of those to drop by?"
She doesn't seem willing to dwell on the matter for too long, flipping the tablet display to show a picture of a man with white hair. "... Anyway. Urien. Big-name fighter, just won one of those silly 'belts' or whatnot. He's been fighting for control of the high schools too. And I've even heard that there'll be more..."
She drifts off for a moment, lost in thought -- it's probably the third time she's flipped through these pictures in the past two days, but as of late, she cares less and less. She turns to Elise suddenly, an irritable expression on her face. "Ugh. Honestly, there's so much going on here, and we might -lose- Gedo, but you know what -really- bothers me?" She rises from her seat, walking over to the whiteboard, and turning back to Elise with visible frustration. "There's... this -weird- thing that's been going on. People I've never met before, talking like they know me. Or worse, like... this big inside joke that I'm just completely left out of." With wider eyes, she turns back, grabbing the index cards from the board, dropping the magnets to the floor. "But then I had a moment. A realization."
She flips through the cards. "One man says he'd seen me in dreams." She flips to the second card. "One man says he =doesn't= remember me, and somehow this is cause for alarm." She flips to a third card. "And this shrine priestess... starts sass-talking me like she knows -everything- about me."
She raises an eyebrow. "Now, something else? Only -one- of them shows any signs of being like you and I. So either they're all drinking from the same water cooler, or something actually did happen. Involving me... and them."
"God, what bloody fool names corporations nowadays? 'Bastion'? 'Atelier'? It's like we're living in Harry Potter," Elise says, irritably, draining the rest of her tea and getting up to get more, practically sashaying into the kitchen because she is utterly unable to walk in any other way, really. It's more conditioned reflex by now than anything else. "As for your other question, no. The only visitor of note I received was a girl named Sada Asai. She's been on that marvelous--" the word drips with sarcasm "--Saturday Night Fight program before. Ghastly piece of work, if you watch the show. Came to have her fortune told. I expect she's got a vendetta, that one. Seemed a little too keen on a revenge fantasy."
She listens carefully to Honoka as she pours out an untempered version of recent events in the juggeler's life; the entire story has the clear note of 'I can FINALLY get this off my chest,' that it all just seems to come pouring out the way it does. The Scot raises an eyebrow at it all as she pours more steaming water into her mug and then slaps in another teabag, tapping her spoon on the inside of the cup idly. "I wouldn't panic yet, sweetie. The 'aren't we old friends?' bit is one of the oldest cons in the business. Human memory is a fragile thing, you see. You put a little pressure on, make the other person doubt if *they're* remembering right. Makes you seem like the generous one, filling in the gaps. Though if that's their game, the way you're describing it sounds like an awfully roundabout way to do it."
She finishes preparing cup two for the day, and takes it back to the couch, resuming her seat and her previously languid posture. "It does seem odd, but... remember, you're talking to a psychic witch whose family has hunted werewolves and vampires for centuries. What are the odds there's some... bizarre supernautral explanation for this?" she asks, bringing the cup to her mouth and taking a sip before resuming. "Of course if that IS the case, it presents an entirely new set of problems."
Laughing, the juggler just shakes her head at the names Elise brushes away. "They do seem a bit on the 'bleh' side."
If she watches the show, sayeth the Scot. Honoka was on it once, against a crazy American. But she was in costume, so it was all good! The Godzilla costume is still hanging out in the props trailer, actually. "Sada... Asai. She might've come to the prom, I think? But I haven't had the 'pleasure' yet," she states, with air quotes.
Honoka flips through the cards again, nodding slowly as Elise talks -- and then tries to talk her out of what she feels is a perfectly logical arrangement. "... Well, there's -that-, and I get what you're saying, but there were very, -very- specific details." She holds the third card up -- well, the back of it, as presented to Elise, has a big 'A' on it. "She... she knew I was Ainu. Knew I went by other names. And knew I probably had a history with being not quite so upfront in dealing with people. It's quite possible that..." At this point, she draws the second card, labeled with 'S'. "-this- little charmer told her everything -- the one with the curious amnesia, and the nearly complete lack of social graces. It's quite possible, I admit, since -she- looked like I'd punched her when I asked if she knew that guy... but he speaks in metaphors."
Frowning, she sets both cards back on the tray of the whiteboard, and holds up the first card, with a 'Z'. "Which leaves me with this guy. With the oddly specific dreams." She shakes her head. "It... -could- be an awfully roundabout way to mess with me, but that presupposes all three would have to be in on it. And while -she- could pull it off, her attitude aside..." She flicks the Z card back onto the stack with the others. "I doubt he could convince me of it."
She leans with her back against the wall, resting her hands on her hips. "I'm sure -some- sort of supernatural explanation is ready, but I can't put my finger on what. Like, there's some -other me?- I guess I'll have to go up and ask the guy again or something. Seems like a nice enough guy, but..."
Sighing irritably, she punches her palm. "I mean, you think I should just drop it, or... what? I don't know anything about the supernatural other than what -we- do."
"If you ask me," Elise says carefully, looking at Honoka over the realm of her teacup, "you're asking for trouble. All this... supernatural silliness, it ALWAYS leads to trouble. And consider the source, before you brush that off," she adds, taking a nice long sip of tea and letting the warmth of it spread through her before she keeps talking. "Think of it practically for a moment, love."
She leans forward and picks up the three cards, marked as they are with the letters. She holds up 'A' for a moment. "You've said this one seems like she knew everything. But you also said she gave you sass, so I suspect she doesn't like you much. But since you're not here telling me that she made some strange demand of you, it hardly seems as if she's overly concerned about you. Otherwise she'd be exercising that leverage straight off. I don't think she's a threat... a mystery, yes, but not a threat."
Setting that card down, she then picks up 'S' and gives it a sort of distracted stare for a while as she talks. "Now this one, on the other hand, sounds like trouble. He's got his hooks in you, sweetie, I can see it. He's a mystery too, but he's a dangerous one because you want to crack him open and see what's inside. Trust the source, miss, because I've used that trick plenty." She sets that down, and then picks up the 'Z' card. "Now, dreams... that intrigues me, because it doesn't sound like it's purposeful. That ball is in OUR court. And..."
A pause. She doesn't talk about her own powers much, even to Honoka; they're not entirely reliable, after all, and Elise would rather be valued for what she can offer outside of random, often cryptic visions. But she does remember that her own first vision of the future came in a daydream or something like it.
"...how about you let me work my magic on this one, hmmm?" she offers, holding the card between her index and middle fingers like a stage magician. "If it'll put your little heart at ease, I don't mind."
On stage, Honoka has a bit of a stage persona built up. The ringmaster for the night has pretty much carte blanche to take digs at the juggler pretty much at will -- and as Honoka never has a mic, she's free to get as physical as she wants to respond to the announcer. It's good for a few laughs, and it's all in good fun.
But offstage, with no audience to impress, and no agenda to force, Honoka tends to wear her emotions on her sleeves. She's frustrated -- possibly even angry -- at the idea that her intuition is -wrong-. She knows there's some thread linking Zach Glenn, Seishirou Ryouhara, and Ayame Ichijo together.
The index cards themselves have more detail that she's written on the cards -- details that might mean nothing to a layperson, but to someone with knowledge of what Honoka knows, it might be useful. She doesn't seem particularly nervous that Elise is handling the cards, given the relative closeness of the two ladies, but... Honoka didn't write any of the data for -her- benefit.
Exhaling sharply, she raises a hand to her forehead. "You know, you're probably right, there's... there's too much going on right now. But don't write me off just yet. I really think we have to keep an open mind about this." She points to the 'Z' card. "He knows something important, and he's not telling me what it is."
She tucks her hands back onto her hips, a light tinge of pink creeping into her cheeks as she looks down at the floor. "But he's also crushing on me pretty bad. Just so you know. He probably doesn't want me to think he's crazy or something." Drawing in her breath again, she looks up to Elise with a hopeful smile. "But... maybe he'll tell you things he wouldn't tell me. Who knows, right?"
Maybe it will set her mind at ease.
Although the lower part of her face is obscured, once again, by her teacup, it is possible to see the hints of a smile tugging at the corner of Elise's mouth as she takes another sip... and there is some mirth in the Scot's blue-eyed gaze, which she fixes on Honoka. "I know better than to discount your intuition, love," she says, trying to be reassuring. She's not necessarily lying, either; if something about this bothers Honoka, then Elise isn't going to discount it. "I agree that it's worth looking into. But I'd be a poor friend if I didn't remind you to prioritize... well, and to delegate," she adds, glancing at the 'Z' card. Zach Glenn... an American in Japan with psychic powers? Shouldn't be hard to find.
"If he really is into you, that's all the angle I need," Elise says with a faint chuckle. The wheels are already turning in her head. If this 'Zach Glenn' does have some connection to the other two, then Elise can prise it out of him... and if he doesn't, then there's a good chance she can use his feelings toward Honoka to play him against these 'Ayame' and 'Seishirou' characters. Of course, she doesn't miss that sudden touch of blush on the Ainu girl's cheeks, either. Deciding that being discreet is a better path than teasing, she adds, "I promise to be extra gentle."
Standing, she places the teacup on the counter, or whatever serves as a counter in the kitchenette, and with a twirl just as dramatic as her entrance, whips the plaid coat/cloak around herself before placing the fur hat on her head and beginning to pull on her gloves. "So put it out of your mind for now and focus on the big picture. Let me handle this silliness in the meantime. Alright?"
Well, that wasn't -exactly- how Honoka had intended the conversation to go -- though, to be fair, she hadn't written the cards with the intention of talking about them at all. So it's just as well that the details weren't pried into -too- heavily. "Okay, you win. Maybe I am thinking about this too much and all."
She quirks an eyebrow at the notation that she need be extra gentle. "... Hey, I'm not worried about -that-. Just find out what he knows, figure out if it's just dreams or what." She taps the Z card on top once more: "Only him though."
Honoka takes down a postcard of Ginkaku-ji, slips it under the stack of cards, and sets it aside while she grabs a newspaper. Her expression brightens, by degrees: "Here's one I had mailed to us from Niigata the other day. Candidates." She hands the paper over to Elise: "I'm not sure who'd be better for us, but Aki might have some ideas. You know how he loves getting fired up about grassroots this and grassroots that."
She flashes a brief smile, full of gratitude. "And... thanks. I really appreciate having someone to talk to about these sorts of things." She runs her fingers through her hair, sweeping long black-and-purple bangs out of her eyes "It's... tough, some days. But I'm glad you're back."
Occasionally, there's truth to what Honoka says. And it's right now, more than most times.
Log created on 17:56:00 01/07/2015 by Honoka, and last modified on 23:32:50 01/07/2015.