A Case Of Unmistaken Identity


cat_icon.gif helena_icon.gif hokuto_icon.gif

Scene Title A Case Of Unmistaken Identity
Synopsis Discovery occurs when Cat and Helena visit Hokuto.
Date October 1, 2009

Ichihara Bookstore

Nestled in the heart of the main street marketplace, the Ichihara Bookstore is an old and crooked structure pressed between two newer high-rise tenement buildings. The old glass windows and creaking wooden door on the shop's front give it a rustic and old-world feel. Catering to both antique books and newer prints, the narrow aisles and tall shelves are packed full of literature. A single shelf for periodicals lies near the front counter, while signage both out front by the register and in the back of the store indicates that tarot card reading is done on-site at request for ten dollars per reading.

Behind the old and weathered wooden counter that contains the register and a small stack of reserved books, a narrow wooden staircase leads upwards to a black wooden door with peeling paint, revealing red paint in narrow strips beneath, a rope crossing in front of that door hangs with a small sign that reads, "Private".

Helena had no idea if Hokuto's store took any damage in the riot that ensued during the assault on the Suresh Center, but just in case, when Helena brings Cat this time around to the Ichihara Bookstore, she comes bearing gifts. In a cardboard box she has batteries, bottles of water, toilet paper, tea and coffee, electrical tape…and to top it all off, a plate of her lemon squares, because Helena stress-bakes, and nothing shines a light on someone who's had their store looted like a home-baked lemon square!

She is only slightly bummed, and mainly relieved, to see the store intact.
"So this woman reads Tarot cards," Cat muses as she approaches with Helena. A snippet of a conversation had some weeks earlier plays out in her head. Being asked about a symbol which was on the Pinehearst sign, in the 9th Wonders comics, and in other places. Like the backs of cards used by a female reader who claimed to be Evolved when asked. It looks like a strand of RNA.

"Do you remember," she asks, "seeing that RNA strand from the Pinehearst sign anywhere else?" Just a wondering, there are lots of female tarot card readers in the city.

From the ghost town of Main Street's five and six story tall residential and office buildings, the Ichihara Bookstore looks mecrifully undamaged by the riots of the last week. The tiny wood and brick building, still wedged between two taller structures, seems as anachronisticly placed as ever. Though the stained-glass lantern hanging out front is a new addition to Helena's eyes, as is the white cat perched in one of the bay windows, the dark black spots above his eyes looking like comically placed eyebrows.

The front door is left open in the cool afternon, dead leaves the color of fire laden on the sidewalk out front, where a straw broom leans up against the doorway, a sweeping task left forgotten for some other flight of fancy of the owner. Despite the front door being open, the interior of the shop is left remarkably unwatched. Books inc ardboard boxes are stacked up near the entrance, not looking like new arrivals from their dog-eared condition, a few more boxes stacked up on the front counter. And yet, Hokuto Ichihara is nowhere to be seen.

"Actually, it's kind of funny…did you ever notice that one little bit of my tattoo looks like part of that? And Hokuto's cards…Hokuto?" Helena calls out. "Um, are you home? Because your door's open…" she trails off, looking around, the box still in her hands. "Hokuto?" she calls out louder. "You here?" Now she's a touch worried. Who in New York leaves their store's door unlocked while the register's unattended?

"Someone asked me about the symbol, and I'm curious," Cat replies, as she surveys the exterior before going in. On Roosevelt Island, like Gillian mentioned and the name Ichihara matches what was in Varlane's book. Now Helena confirms it's on the reader's cards here. Once again in her experience, there are no coincidences.

She's very alert on entry, seeing the door open and things left unattended. The door is studied for signs of being forced open, the interior checked out for signs of a struggle. For all she knows HF discovered that symbol being around Evolved people and decided to carry out attacks based on that. Over and above the chances of it being just plain robbery.

A clunk comes from upstairs, followed by a strange rattling noise too close to be upstairs and too far away to be downstairs, one any resident of New York finds familiar after long enough — the sound of old, rattling pipes. A few long moments later, the clunk-thump of lazy footfalls come down the stairs behind the counter. First it's black jeans with the cuffs rolled up, then it's a white tanktop, and finally fine brush-strokes of ink black hair currently being toussled by a damp towel. From the moisture still beading on Hokuto Ichihara's nose and cheeks, it's clear she's just gotten out of the shower — with her door open and unlocked — days after a riot.

"Helena!" Her voice is remarkably pleased, though her progress down the stairs falters when she sees Cat. On brow rises slowly, lips parting and mouth opening as her head tilts to the side slowly. There's a moment, right there, where Hokuto's dark eyes go wide and her lips part as the rather unexpected spills out from her lips. "Catherine?"

Curiouser and curiouser.

"You know you really shouldn't - " The words die on Helena's lips as she stares between the two women to guage Cat's reaction. "Do you two know each other?" she asks, looking back and forth like she's watching a tennis match at Wimbledon. Almost on tiptoe, she moves to set the box down on the counter, and lifts the plastic covered plate of baked goods out of the box. "We um, brought you some stuff." she notes, a little lamely. Still, this is a little fascinating and Helena's thoughts race. College roomies? Former trust fund lunch buddies? Ex-girlfriend? The possibilities are intriguing.

It's there, stuck among memories from a decade ago and maybe more, the unclear period before she manifested nearly eight years ago now. Recognition dawns after a few seconds of searching for the face, wondering how this woman knows her name, before she finds it. Cat can't recall an introduction, and she's not quite sure whether she was sixteen or seventeen then yet, but the face does register. That, and an older Asian man.

"That's me," Cat confirms, "it was a society party in Hartford. You were with your father." It's a guess.

"Oh!" Hokuto immediately chirps the moment the lemon squares come into view, "Lemon squares!" Several quick paces take her around the counter until pale hands manage to snatch up the plate entirely and draw them back towards herself. Rocking back onto her heels, a Cheshire smile spreads practically from ear to ear as she takes a few springing steps back, then hops up onto the old and worn counter, one leg swinging to cross over the other, plate laid down in her lap.

"I— " A bit of an awkward smile comes from Hokuto as she considers Cat's notion, nose wrinkled and head nodding slowly, "yes that was my father. I'm surprised you remembered me, you were pretty young," says the woman who doesn't quite look her age in the least. "You know, I was just thinking of your mother and father the other day, this— " she laughs to herself, setting the plate of lemon squares aside, dark eyes flitting to the other offering Helena holds with one raised brow, but her focus soon flicks back up to Cat. "This really is an unbelievable coincidence." Curling her hands around the edge of the counter, Hokuto's lips creep up into a far larger smile, legs swinging back and forth.

"So…" dark brows go up, "you two know each other? Absolutely fascinating," she notes with another wrinkle of her nose and a nod of her head. "I'm glad you made some noise, I wouldn't have— " she's distracted by the glimmer of sunlight off of something on the counter next to her. "Oh! Someone must have bought a book…" She coos while leaning to the side and picking up some wrinkled dollar bills and assorted change from the counter, because apparently in Hokuto's strange corner of the world, her bookstore operates on the honor system while she's in the shower?

Helena just shakes her head, laughing. "You are the only person in this entire city who leaves the door to her store open while she takes a shower with access to the register and everything, much less a few days after a violent riot." Then, unable to resist the flattery, she says shyly, "Do you like them? They're my mom's recipe, from scratch and everything. I wanted to come see you to ask you about some things, and I wondered you know, if you're okay, because you're here and it was real rough, so we brought you some supplies, but you seem fine. Which you know, I'm glad."

Helena promptly gets preoccupied by the exchange between the two women again. "So you guys were what, trust fund kids in the same circle?" she can't help but grin. "Cat and I - " she says, looking at the brunette in amusement a moment, and then grins at Hokuto, "We met through a mutual friend. Person. Acquaintance. It's…" she makes a vague you don't want to know gesture with her hands, the irony of which will undoubtedly soon be revealed.

"Coincidence," Cat repeats with a dry chuckle. There aren't any of those. "Mother's running for Mayor now," Cat remarks in opting not to speak of Father. Eyes rest on Hokuto calmly, a faint smile forming while she speaks. What's in her head mostly about those parties Mother held is how bored they made her. How she'd seek to crawl out on the balcony and shimmy down a tree to escape.

"Not quite," she answers for Helena's benefit. "Our parents moved in similar circles, though, it seems." And that she has to wonder about. Were the Ichiharas simple society contacts, tied to Father through his insurance executive cover, or linked by their work with the Company?

The question goes unvoiced; she'll ask it of a mayoral candidate instead.

There's something of a knowing laugh on Hokuto's face as her eyes fall shut and she shakes her head in response to Helena's final moment of fluster. "Right, like Catherine says, nothing quite like that. Catherine's parents did some contracting work for the company my father worked for a long time ago, and my father wanted to try and get me acquainted with people he'd considered colleagues — even if they were retired — So… it was an even fit. When you're in your early twenties, any opportunity to earn some respect in the eyes of your parents is always an uphill battle."

Reaching down to pick up one of the lemon squares, Hokuto looks over to the white visitor hopping up beside her on the counterspace. The large, somewhat plump cat waddles his way over to the plate, nose sniffing at the lemon squares, both of his little black dots above his eyes perking up as his yellow eyes upturn to Hokuto, then drift from Helena to Cat and back to the plate before deciding he's too finicky for baked goods, and hops down with a thud to the floor.

"That," she notes with a wave of the lemon square behind herself, "is Gabriel." The lemon square is lifted up to her mouth, one hand cupped beneath to catch the crumbs, "he's one of the strays I've taken in." That name, those eyebrows, that's got to be a coincidence. But before that particular oddity can be addressed, she's shifting conversational gears like a hyperactive teenager.

"Oh! I heard about your mother, yes." Hopping down off of the counter, Hokuto wanders over to one of the boxes, mouth half-full of the lemon bar as she reaches down and pulls out a flyer with Jennifer Chesterfield's face on it. "A whole slew of them were dropped by the other day, I'd thought about calling her but…" Hokuto just shakes her head slowly.

The snicker in her throat can't be helped, and Helena kneels down to hold her hand out temptingly toward the cat, to see if it'll come close for a sniff and a bit of attention. Maybe Helena needs a kitten! "You should?" Helena suggests, the raise in her voice making it something in kind of a question. "Local business owners supporting her can't be a bad thing." She doesn't know about any past history, or Hokuto's affiliation with the Company. "Anyway, I'm glad you're alright, and it's kind of creepy and cool that you know Cat." And that her funkily eyebrowed cat is named Gabriel, but they'll spend too much time on it for Helena not to go cross-eyed so she leaves that one way alone.

"I hope there isn't tension between you," Cat replies sincerely to the mention of declining to call Mother. The cat is watched for some moments as Helena approaches him. She doesn't let on any reaction to the creature's name, however. Nor does she choose to mention being told about Hokuto by Magnes and Gillian both before being led here. This is all very curious, she will let it play out as it will.

Her eyes do seek out that symbol in this place, though. "Mother becoming Mayor would be the best thing for the city."

"Oh— No, no nothing like tension. It's just, she and I were never particularly close. I haven't seen her since my mother's funeral, and— that wasn't a particularly good encounter between she and I, given the circumsances." Shifting her weight to one foot, Hokuto finishes the lemon square and offers a mild smile to Helena, watching as Ganriel turns his whiskers up at the offered hand and goes thundering up the stairs to the second floor.

"He's appropriately finicky," Hokuto notes with a roll of her eyes, looking to the plate of baked goods contemplatively, but remarkably manages to relent. "Jennifer would be a good mayor, I think. Well— I'm fairly certain at least. To be honest it always seemed like something your father would be more suited to, but I guess he doesn't quite have the demeanor for public office, does he?" There's something of a teasing smile there, Hokuto's head shaking from side to side.

"So, aside from bringing me delicious confections and what looks like an apocalyptic survival kit," she smirks playfully, "what brings you two out here? The police barricades are a nightmare to get through by road, I figure you took the subway up?" Judging from the lack of car outside.

"Something like that." Helena says airily. Funny how relaxed she can be after the past few days. Compartmentalized, it's like it never happened. She rises to her feet, a little glum at the feline rejection, but it is quickly dismissed once she turns her attention back to Hokuto. "I need a reading." she confesses. "It might be kind of a doozy, and it comes with a story before-hand and, of course I'm prepared to pay." She looks faintly wry, crossed with a certain seriousness. "There are vague and epic forces floating about, and it may be something out of our hands, but if there is something I - we can do about it, I need to know."
No, Cat thinks to herself, he doesn't have the demeanor for public office. Being dead will do that to a guy. But she doesn't comment, lets nothing show in her expression to indicate what his situation is. She simply leaves Helena with the conversational floor when a reading is asked for.

And she's still keeping eyes open for that strand of RNA.

Biting down on her ower lip, Hokuto arches one brow high and looks to Helena with a feline tilt of her head. "You… You do know they're just cards, right?" There's a slightly teasing tone to her voice, even as she walk spast the first thing that finally catches Cat's eye in the store — even if it happens to be the cover of Activating Evolutions — a book marked with that very symbol, but not quite what she's looking for. "Coincidences, maybe good for a little head clearing but— they're just cards, Helena. You shouldn't use them to make real, important decisions, you know?" There's a hesitant smile afforded to the young girl, one that comes with a slow rise and fall of her shoulders.

"I'll… I'll give you a reading, but you have to understand, there's nothing special about them. I have just as many miss readings as I do hit ones, it's the law of odds." It has to be, right? "Is it a reading for you, or…" she nods in Cat's direction.

"They're just cards." Helena affirms. "But when you have nowhere else to turn when it comes to trying to get ideas, what harm is there in tapping on the door of the ol' universal consciousness, right?" And because Hokuto's reading was so uncanny for her the last time…she looks at Cat. "I don't know if Cat wants a reading or not, but I think whatever happens, she needs to see, too. Whether it doesn't connect, or we get a big eureka out of it." There's a tenative smile, and Helena approaches the fortune-teller. "So can I tell you a story?"

Her eyes don't linger on the book long, she's seen it once before in these past few years and that's all Cat needs. The complete contents of Chandra's book are committed to memory. Eyes return to Hokuto when she's addressed, a nod prefaces the reply. "I'm interested in a reading," she provides as her iPhone is withdrawn from a pocket and held up. Fingers tap the screen in a few places, she looks at something on it for a few moments then taps the screen another few times before pocketing it.

Skepticism is the rule, she knows how alleged psychics can play the confidence game and make enough correct guesses to seem prophetic to their customers. But… precogs are real, she can't rule it out here. Magnes did say the tarot reader confessed to be Evolved. Is she a precog, and just playing it down to avoid confessing her status to Helena? Or is her power something else? For that matter, does she even have one? Magnes may have been lied to.

If nothing else, she thinks, she'll see the woman's cards at first hand and verify whether or not they've got that strand of RNA.

Drawing in a deep breath, Hokuto exhales it in a deep sigh. "I've a feeling this one's going to be a bit more of a doozy than your relationship complications," she admits with a grimace. "Start up the talking, and follow me to the back…" Hokuto notes quietly, turning to walk between one of the tall bookshelves and towards the rear of the store, "I'll put on a pot of tea, we'll talk, and I'll run you a reading." There's a thoughtful pause, mid-aisle, as Hokuto turns around and looks back at Helena. "Did you want them read in here, or outside?" That wasn't part of the offer last time.

Hel blinks at that, not sure as to why the question was asked. "Outside?" she echoes uncertainly. "I'm not sure what the difference would be…I guess whatever could leave us uninterrupted and feels right for you?" She's not sure if Hokuto means in the public area of the store, or if she means outside, out-of-doors, where admittedly, Helena is always most centered. She does confess, "It is kind of a doozy, yeah."

There's a story to be told, and a decision to be made, thus Cat remains silent. Ready to follow wherever the others go. She's just observing and recording by simple virtue of being present.

"We'll postpone the tea then, it's nice outside this time of year. I'm fond of the fall and all that." Of course she's going to catchherself a death of a cold with wet hair, but Hokuto doesn't seem particularly concerned. As she makes her way between the aisles of old and new books all jumbled together, she halts by the circular table nestled into a nook near the back entrance of the store, the same table Helena had her cards read the last time. In reaching for the cardboard box of tarot cards on the table, Cat's eyes are directed to the pattern on the case, an unfamiliar stencil pattern with a very familiar symbol at the center of the design, worked into the floral theme.

Palming the box of cards from the table, she turns towards the back door, standing by a half-empty cardboard box full of old books. "COme on, out this way," she nods her head towards the doorway, "So, what's this big story?"

Helena takes a seat, and…yes, the weather is glorious. "So this is going to sound weird, but just run with it, okay?" Helena takes a big breath before beginning. "So…say there were two…beings. Like brothers. Or spirits, or maybe um, kami." she says. "And one was light, and healing and growth, and the other was its opposite, darkness and death and decay. And they sort of," Helena makes a back-and-forth gesture with her hands, "Battled each other. Constantly, maybe eternally. They would find people to sort of carry them? And these spirits would enable the people to carry them to do certain things. The one kami that was light, its touch would heal, and the other…" she trails off.

Still no comment is made. Cat begins to pull out the iPhone again a moment later and press spots on the screen for a few moments, not stopping when Hokuto palms the box and takes it away. By the time they've all gotten outside she's tucked the device away and giving full attention to the story. By her pokerface, one might conclude she's heard it before or is entirely unmoved. It doesn't appear to provoke any reaction or curiosity.

That outside area Hokuto led Cat and Helena to isn't quite the normal outdoors. In the shadows of adjacent buildings, the paved back-lot lot is secluded from the rest of Roosevelt Island by buildings cornering it on four sides. Only a narrow alleyway between two red brick buildings directly across from the bookstore's back entrance gives it an outlet, and fire escapes bolted to all of the walls here aren't just an industrial addition to the old, plain brick buildings; creeping ivy has overgrown the entire back lot.

Growing up between spaces in the pavement and crawling between the brickwork, the ivy has wound its way around the fire escapes, up the walls and around the windows. Amidst this odd contrast of urban and verdant setting, the black iron garden furniture seems to blend in well. The chairs are made of the same wrought iron, four circling the table where an old oil lamp rests along with a box of matches and glass cylinders containing pillar candles that are arranged around the table.

Hokuto circles around that table, taking far longer to sit at it than Helena did. But the look on her face has quickly shifted away from mischevious to simply distressed. Dark brows furrow, and Hokuto firmly slaps the card box down on the table, leveling dark eyes down at Helena. "You're the third group to come to me asking about this." Her eyes drift to Cat, suspiciously, then back to Helena. "Kazimir Volken and Francois Allegre. I know of this story, and I knew of it before anyone had come to ask questions about it. If you're here for Francois' journal, it's gone, I gave it away to someone who I thought could benefit from it."
The surprise on Helena's face is no act. "What - I - no." She shakes her head. "This is - no, I…" she gets distressed, takes a moment, breathes. Okay. Okay. So Hokuto knows far more than Helena expected, was it fate that led her here? Are there no coincidences? "I'm not trying to get anything from you that I didn't outright ask for." she says, once her calm is a touch restored. "I didn't even know about a journal." Her hands rest on the table and clench into fists. "I'm here because Kazimir Volken is dead, and what was in him, it moved into someone else, someone I…" Helena pauses, her jaw growing clenched, "care about," she continues, because there are other words she's not sure are right anymore, "Is now carrying it, and I think it's swallowing up his soul and destroying him from the inside out. And I don't know how to stop it without it simply passing to someone else, and I don't even know that I should."

The Fool, standing at the precipice, and everything is transient - her feelings, her decisions. And so once again, she comes to the Hermit's door.
Whatever role, if any, Hokuto's mental map might assign to her is probably as yet undetermined. Cat listens, and as Hokuto reacts she shows a small amount of shift to her facial features. One eyebrow quirks up as if she were a woman-shaped version of Spock. Interesting, she knows about Volken and Allegre. But what does she know about them? What journal?

It prompts simple questions. But Cat gives voice to only one. "What do you know about Volken?"

Turning the box of cards on its end, Hokuto furrows her brows and tilts her head to the side. "If you for a moment think that man is dead," she intones quietly, "you're deluding yourself." But at the same time she gives no explanation. No amount of dreams she's seen, truth's she's gleaned out of sleeping minds or scrawlings of a French soldier could truly put to words the length and width of all of that in any succinct manner.

Cat, however, cuts to the quick with a simpler question. It elicits the look of those dark eyes up to her, silent and thoughtful. "Only what I've heard…" she says ambiguously, "and read." Dark brows crease together, and she slides the cardboard box up, leaving the cards balancing on end on the table. "He was a man, professed of age older than most of us. He encountered a French soldier during World War II, and experimented on him to divine the origins of his own ability. I don't know if he succeeded or not."

The box is laid down on the table, and the card stack is tipped over and laid flat, her fingers forming a cage around the cards. "I know that death, destruction— nothing of the sort is any means of an end to him. Life finds a way, and if there's one thing I took away from what little I was able to read of Francois' journal, it's that life is very much what the both of them existed for."

Dark eyes move to Helena next, studying the girl uncertainly. "What is it you want to know?" From the cards, is the inferred qualifier there.

Helena is silent for a long time. The question doesn't have to be specific and she knows this. A reader worth her salt, even one without Hokuto's ability, would know how to pick up on the cues, be able to to give Helena what she needed without the details. But in this case, Helena's unwilling to leave things to fate. Even if in fact, there are no coincidences.

"What do I need to do," she asks, "to save Peter Petrelli?"

Even as she says it, she's aware that the answer may be that there's nothing she can do, and that her part in his life is over. She believes she is prepared for that answer, but the truth won't be known to that fact unless it's what comes of the reading.

Listening, observing, quietly analyzing information presented as the other two speak: this is Cat at the moment. Her brows furrow about something just before she turns to Helena. "We don't know if Peter had an SLC ability left or not," she muses. "But we do know the previous host of the Life Kami didn't have one of her own. The restorer couldn't give it back. Now, the most recent host of the opposing force, before Peter, had abilities at the time he hosted. With Peter, we see different results, changes on him. Could it be," she queries, "the reason behind it altering him is the absence of any SLC product?"

"If there's one thing I do not have a knack for, it's my father's deft hand with science." Hokuto shakes her head slowly, offering a hesitant smile as she anxiously slides the deck of cards over to Helena. "Cut these, however you feel comfortable." Her head tilts down into a nod, eyes cast side-long towards Catherine as she does.

"I only know vagueries about the two, more… insubstantial information, nothing concrete like that. You'd need a geneticist, someone with a firm understanding of the Evolved, and I honestly can't think of anyone that has either the time not the inclination to go hunting ghosts in their spare time."
Helena splits the the cards in a fiveway pattern, not unlike a checkerboard, one in the center, one at each corner. She'll pause then, and only stack them together again at Hokuto's direction, unless Hokuto does it herself, but she does her best to hold her question in her mind as she does so.

It all registers. Hokuto's nod, Helena's lack of an answer or expression of thought on that theory. Cat lapses to silence and returns to contemplating the question as she observes Helena's moves with the tarot cards. Her expression has returned to poker face.

Taking back the deck once stacked, Hokuto shuffles them once herself in more of a playing card fashion, a fold, a spread and a shuffle in two hands as quick as the eye can follow. When she lays the cards back down, her eyes are focused on the wrought iron table top and the vine patterns that form the table's surface. "I haven't done this in a while, but I'm going to use the twisting paths spread. It's ideal for determining a plan of action…" Five cards are laid out to this end, starting from left to right, staggering them high and low, high and low up to the fourth card. The fifth card is placed directly above the fourth.

"This card represents your first decision on the path to saving— " only now does the name finally click. Petrelli. Peter Petrelli. Hokuto's dark eyes go wide, up to Helena, staring at her in stunned and unguarded confusion for a few full moments of protracted silence. When she does finally find her voice again, her brows merely crease together, tongue wetting her lips before she looks down slowly to the table. "I ah— the— " she points to the second card she laid out. "This is the first decision made on… on that path." Clearly she'd rather dodge that little visual slip, and there as she flips the first card over is a card depicting a brilliant glowing sun, where a naked child rides on the back of a horse away from it, swaddled in crimson cloth. At the top of the card, the Roman numerals XIX are displayed, and at the bottom it simply reads The Sun.

Clearing her throat, Hokuto's brows furrow slightly as she traces her fingers over the card. "It— " it's not the card she would have expected. "The sun shows a time of acceptance, inspiration and achievement. A percursor to the work to come, if I had to make a jugement based on what you asked. The Sun signifies everything positive, from love, to life… it implies you should do something good, perhaps before undertaking the bulk of the journey ahead."

Yeah, sorry Cat. Contemplating the scientific isn't half so alluring as consulting the mystical. Helena stares at the card for a moment. "I think there's something good coming up, but I'm not sure how it ties…" There's Miracle Day, the Sequel coming up. She firmly believes only good can come of it, provided that they're clever enough to keep Humanis First from ruining it. If it's not that, then well…opportunities present themselves.
ORDER: Cat has skipped their turn.

Moving her hand down to the first card she had laid, Hokuto rests her fingers on top of it. Her brows crease together, eyes lift from the card to Helena. "Something good is always on the horizon," she notes with a subtle nod, "you just have to know where to look." Then, turning her focus back down to the card, Hokuto consider the back as she speaks. "This card is your first false path. It's something that is going to try and lead you astray from what you want and make you think that perhaps you never wanted it to begin with."

When the card is turned over, the image is a very evocative one. A great and swirling storm cloud has manifested a hand with which to reach down towards the land, holding in its maelstrom grip an uprooted tree it wields like a club. At the bottom, the card reads, The Ace of Wands. Hokuto's brows furrow, waggling the card from side to side with two fingers.

"You're going to be distracted by an offer, one of power or opportunity, something very primal though. Not just money or wealth, but something more ephemeral and intangible, but something that you still desire. Spiritual, almost, but it's trying to — whether intentionally or not — lead you away from your goal. Whoever makes the offer is bold, outspoken, spiritual and strong of presence."

Helena stares at the card for a long moment. "Someone who will tell me I have a destiny?" she asks very quietly. It's the one thing McRae had said they could agree on, when she took her stance against him that Evolved were not superior to Non-Evolved. And she'd known, even then, to be cautious, even though the bond of their shared ability had led her to at least initially reach out to the old man. Would confessing to that destiny lead to hubris? Hubris, lead to acceptance of Evolved superiority? Acceptance, and thus stray from the path?

The cards are not an oracle, but they do certainly trigger the unconscious.

"That… would be one interpretation," Hokuto admits with a reluctant nod of her head, moving then to the third card she had laid out. Resting her fingers on the back of the card, her brows tense, eyes alight to Helena. "This card is the second choice you make on the path towards your ultimate goal, if you forsake the first attempts to draw you away from the course."

Turning the card over, Hokuto reveals the image of a young man leaning on a wooden walking stick, with a field of bristling staves rising up from the ground behind them, some skewed at odd angles like too-thin trees. "The Nine of Wands," Hokuto explains, brows raised. "A pause in your current struggle to ready yourself. It shows that you will make preparation to meet some final, conclusive battle. Forces will be assembled in anticipation of all manner of great difficulty, and you must steel yourself to do what you never thought you could — or would — in order to see things thorugh to the end. Often times," Hokuto notes with a wag of one finger into the air, "this card indicates unlikely alliances."

Unlikely alliances. Helena looks at Cat briefly. Gabriel? The Remnant? Or really, it could be anyone, as she looks back at the card musingly. It seems to nebulous to comment on, so Helena just nods, expression thoughtful. Could this be a confrontation with Humanis First? Or something more powerful? The road still leads to saving Peter Petrelli, as she lets the Hermit continue to light the path.

Helena's silence gives strange comfort to Hokuto, and as her hand moves over the second to last card, there's something of an uncertain look that flicks form Helena to Cat and back. Cat's silent assessment of the reading earns that look, but Hokuto is quick to return her attention back to the cards at hand. "This is the second false path, the second attempt to lead you astray from your goal." When the card is overturned, it is the first inverted card of the reading. There rests a crowned figure on a horse, carrying a wooden staff topped with a wreath, several other wooden staves in the background behind his steed. "The Six of Wands," she seems surprised by there being this many wands in the reading, "inverted. It is a card that means victory, and this implies… well," her brows press together, "it means you will be distracted by an unfortunate failure."

Not looking entirely comfortable with the card, Hokuto shakes her head and looks up to Helena. "This card indicates arrogance and a dangerous amount of overconfidence as the result of a past success you may have had. It implies fear of failure coupled with false hopes. You need to recognize your limitations, or you'll risk something far worse than failure."

There are simply too many possibilities as to how that could apply in multiple scenarios for Helena to overcomplicate thinking about it. But the caution is a good thing, if one assumes that possible paths can be avoided. It would seem that many, many things will try to cross her in her effort, some of which she can (and maybe even has) recognized, but some of which will be a lot harder. She's greatful, in this moment, that Cat is here.

"If you can avoid the pitfalls of overconfidence," Hokuto notes, moving her hand to the last card, "then this will be the ultimate outcome of your attempt to save…" she can't quite bring herself to say his name, and instead Hokuto just turns over the card. What's there, beneath her hand, well — it could have been better.


The Tower.

While from Helena's perspective, the depiction of an enormous tower being struck by a bolt of lightning, shattering at the middle and crumbling down while two people fall from its parapets may seem grim, it is the very notion that she is viewing that card upright that means it — in fact — is not. "The Tower, inverted." Hokuto looks up frm the card that implies wholesale ruin, nodding her head once. "You narrowly escape a great calamity. Something bigger," she looks back and forth at the cards shown, "something bigger than what I think you asked me is at stake. And by attempting to save the person you care for," her teeth draw over her lower lip slowly, "you risk a cataclysmic end, but somehow manage to come out of a disastrous scenario alive, and with what you sought."

Her head downturns, jaw set, "Others may not be so fortunate as you."

Helena stares at the card, stares at it hard. "Of course." she says, in a voice that's choked. "It's happened before, actually. Narrowly escaping a great calmity for who I wanted, risking cataclysmic end. And now it's going to happen again, if I don't - I can't." She looks away. "It means I can't save him." And she forgets they're only cards. "And I shouldn't - this was supposed to be my time…" Her distress is evident, she abruptly stands up, hands balled into fists, once she does, she realizes how she's behaving. "I'm sorry." she says instantly. "I'm sorry." She sits back down with a thump.

It's a worried expression that paints Hokuto's face as she looks up to Helena, leaning back and away from the cards to settle against the back of her chair. Folding her hands in her lap, those damp tresses of black hair come down to frame the sides of her face, finally working free from behind her ears. "I… I'm sorry it isn't quite what you had hoped." She swallows, tensely, "they are— " she grimaces, "just cards."

Looking to Cat, somewhat helplessly, Hokuto's dark eyebrows shoot up in that universal expression of I have no idea what to say, her shoulders rolling helplessly. But silence is worse than misplaced words, and Hokuto does nothing but keep talking. "I— perhaps you might want to try again later with— with a different question… or…"

"No," Helena says, shaking her head as she recovers, "It's not your fault, I'm not upset," the latter's a lie, "You can't help what comes up in the cards. It's my responsibility to pay attention." Taking a breath, she rises from the seat again, but this time, flourishes to indicate Cat should take her spot. "If you're up for another…Cat's will hopefully be better."

She doesn't speak as the reading is conducted, Cat's silence persistent until the spread is complete. But her eyes and her ears record all of it. The face has remained impassive, she seeking to give as few clues as possible and see what sort of reading Hokuto provides for her, with questions forming all the while.

"We're no strangers to challenges," she simply offers, one hand reaching out to rest on Helena's shoulder if she'll allow it. To give quiet comfort. Of course, through all this time she's been watching to see if that RNA strand is present on the cards as well as the box it came from.

"I'm intrigued to see what reading you conduct for me," the panmnesiac states, "and I wonder, do you ascribe any significance to the strand of RNA which seems to recur in so many places?"

Offering a faint smile, Hokuto takes the cards and shuffles them all back together with a practiced hand. "I have a rule, typically only one reading per day." Her head quirks to the side, dark eyes drifting over to Cat, then back to Helena. "I think, especially after that particular one… maybe we could just take a break? There's a sub shop down the street called Florintino's, we could walk down and get some dinner, then come back with a clearer head and try again?" It's obvious from the way Helena reacted to the reading, Hokuto needs some of her headspace cleared too.

Then, finally, having considered the question of the symbol, she looks at the back of the card and slowly shakes her head. "These cards belongs to my mother, and her mother before her. I've never questioned them, much, but I have seen the symbol before. But when you get down to it," her dark eyes wander up to Cat, "you have to try and not mistake coincidence for fate. It's just a picture."

"There are some spiritual beliefs that suggest there are no coincidences, and all is fate." Helena observes, but nods, "Food, yeah…food sounds good. We could walk." She shakes her head. "Hokuto, you need to be more careful. Humanis First are a bunch of indiscriminate bastards."

Food is apparently acceptable, as Cat rises to leave the table. "Perhaps," Cat opines dryly, "yet so many paths seem to cross without apparent need to." She will not elaborate now, Helena will maybe hear her expound at some point. Magnes, Gillian, Helena, the symbol all converging to point her in Hokuto's direction, learning she'd seen the woman before in Hartford; there's connection to her parents and from her parents to the Company…

The mystery fascinates, but hunger is stronger.

"I'm not worried…" Hokuto notes with a shake of her head, "if my time comes, my time comes. I survived worse than irational racism, this city has survived worse. It'll weather the storm, and hopefully I will too, and we'll all come out stronger for it." There's a crook at the corners of her mouth, eyes softening into a more gentle expression. "I'm not entirely helpless anyway…"

But that thinly veiled suggestion is only capped off with a joke, "Gabriel is an attack cat." She leaves the cards out, knowingly, temptingly in a way — to her other less feline houseguest. "Come on, I know a good shortcut," says the Hermit to the Fool.

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