The Dragon That Fell Down The Stairs


bao-wei_icon.gif corbin_icon.gif wendy_icon.gif

Scene Title The Dragon That Fell Down The Stairs
Synopsis After spending the night in the cold and lonely basement with just his bruised pride as company, Corbin finds Bao-Wei and helps him out of the hole he fell into.
Date February 15, 2010

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".

Being stuck in a basement with no way out is never the most pleasant experience. When there is not much to use down there, even moreso. For a while. Doctor Cong sat in silence and pondered the meanings and possibilities of Hokuto's single page diary, which he has since kept, and has pocketed the Primatech business card for himself, as there is something that nags at the back of his brain about it. And after that initial period of anger and thought all the same, he did fall asleep sitting against one of the stone walls of the cellar. When he woke up and opened the door at the ground, the sun was peeking down through the bulkhead nearby, filling the basement with a dusky white glow from the winter sky. Rather than waste his energy trying to call out through there, he went back to find a seat and wait for the sounds of footsteps above his head.

Sooner or later he'll hear something; the lock on the front was broken, so surely whoever finds it that way will make some long and strenusous creaking while investigating things. The only things that he did touch upstairs were the tarot cards, and the now open door labeled 'Employees Only'. Out back, one of the iron chairs on the little lot is placed over by the open bulkhead doors, covered in a fresh layer of snow.

If and when Bao-Wei finally does hear a presence, he has a particularly long plank of wood from the broken stairs to knock at the ceiling with.

THUNK, THUNK, THUNK. Anybody home?

If it wasn't for the mrowing beast up above, it might have been a much longer wait than it is. A bell rings as the door opens, and the padded feet of the cat hurry close, reminding in the most annoying way possible that he happens to be hungry for brains!

Or in this case, Corbin's ankle. "Get off, Gabriel," he says, nudging the beast away. "You'll get fed, just hold your horses." There's something that isn't right, which the reporter/agent notices right away. But it could mean that Wendy stopped in on the day she wasn't supposed to work and lost her key, or— something else. Unless someone was seeking warmth or books, he's not sure what anyone would want to steal, here.

And then he hears the knocking. "…Hello?" The voice may sound familiar. Or at least vaguely so. The open Employee only door gets peaked through, as he looks around for where the knocking's coming from. And Gabriel mrowls at him a bunch more. He wants his food now, don't you know.

That distant response gives the doctor at least a dose of hope, and so far he has not placed it to one of the figures he technically knows already. He can also hear the faint mewl of that weird Groucho cat, and the equally faint shuffle of feet. He hits at the ceiling a few more times in lieu of yelling, and as Corbin gets closer to the back room, he can hear- and possibly feel- the vibrations of the wooden plank striking hard at the floorboards from below.

When Bao-Wei is fairly confident that whoever is there is in the room above him, his voice tremors out of the cracks in the floor; for Corbin, it may be a voice that is hard to forget. Why? It belonged to that chomping old dragon that had dug a hole in the floor within Hokuto's dreamscape. By association, it also belonged to that big older man that it changed from. This is the real world, so it is considerably less likely that he is actually a dragon.

"Have you got a ladder?" Good question as any.

That voice is familiar. It'd not been too long ago that they'd had the dream, and Corbin is not about to forget it. After a few moments his head appears, eyebrows raised in surprise. "This place had a basement?" He looks back at the cat, as if accusing him of not having told him about it. "Guess I know where you disappear to when I can't find you, huh," he says, pushing the critter away with his foot as he tries to gnaw on pant leg.

"Just cause you ripped up the floor of the dreamscape bookstore, doesn't mean you should go down to see what's under the real one…" he says, before he vanishes. There's no accusing sound to his voice. Was it sleepwalking? Or genuine breaking and entering. Lucky thing about the bookstore, there is a ladder. Some of the shelves are high!

When he reappears, he's carrying one, and sticking it down. This one happens to be metal.

Bao-Wei Cong looks exactly like he did in the dream, though in this world his otherwise nice suit is covered in cobwebs and dust, but somehow, beyond all chance, that little red and gold dragon pin on his lapel is as shiny as it was going down. He peers up at Corbin that first time with a dose of caution, squinting like the cynic old man he already looks like.

When the young man comes back, the man at the bottom of the well makes sure that the bottom is secure first, glancing up to the door of skylight and Corbin, who he already seems to regard as having a gentle aura. He didn't yell, that's for one thing. "I had to."

"I am glad that I did. Some very interesting things down there, including that mirror, fracture and all. For once, rubbing elbows with the dregs in Chinatown paid off. I broke in, but as you can plainly see-" He has failed to be able to get back out. Rather than finish speaking, Bao-Wei goes over the sturdiness of the ladder again before starting up. The book has been tucked into his pocket- he will share it in due time.

"You're going to be paying for that lock," Corbin says, as he peers down at the basement. It doesn't come off as angry, so much as matter-of-factly. "Crime isn't so much an issue out here, normally… Hokuto used to fall asleep at the main counter all the time." Back before this happened. Right now, though… "That mirror's down there?" He frowns, expression darkening as he peers down into the darkness, what he can see of it. "I'll have to check it out."

Once the big guy gets himself out of there, at least.

There's worse parts of dreams to repeat in the real world, but now— the birthday present she got him won't be needed anymore. New locks means the key to her store that she gave him won't be needed anymore. He sets a hand on the ladder top, showing he'll help hold it in place, at least til he gets high enough to grab onto the floor boards.

Bao-Wei is much bigger up close; he comes eye level with Corbin when he makes his way out of the cellar, already keen on dusting something off. It is a lost cause, though, as the basement was just that dirty. Plus, he fell down there, and it was bound to mess him up. Somehow, the doctor makes dusting off his sleeves look like something he had been planning on, his straight posture doling authority into his imagery. At long last, a book is produced out of his pocket, held between thumb and knuckle for Corbin to see the cover.

= My Dream Journal

The leatherbound book looks very thin, however, as it only has one remaining page.

"I shall buy her new locks just for leading me to this. And if you are indeed as close to her as I witnessed-" Bao-Wei pauses, not recalling a name. "You may find the contents of the basement to be interesting as well."

Big guy! Which is funny, cause Corbin is definitely not a big guy. He's somewhat skinny and not tall, compact more than anything. Once the man can get back upstairs, he straightens and backs up, waiting until the book is held out. "She kept a dream journal?" he asks, frowning at the cover, but not honestly sounding surprised. "And all the pages are gone?" he asks, noticing the thinness, the way it's pressed together. "If they are downstairs, they're probably no longer readable," he speculates, as he looks back down toward the celler.

"We were coworkers once— then good friends. I've been minding her store for… a while now." There's a pause, before he blinks, seeming to realize— despite having met under unusual circumstances, they don't know each other's names.

"I'm Corbin Ayers."

"Doctor Cong." He makes a point to emphasize what importance he retains, as his dignity has suffered a night long blow. It's clear that it has. "Bao-Wei Cong." And in the end he uses the English literation of first and last name. "One page, one line. I do not know what it means, yet. You might." His thumb flicks open the little book for Corbin to see, and that single page is covered in unintelligible scrawl except for:

It's not me in the mirror.

Once Corbin sees it, he turns over the little book to the younger man before moving aside to get inside. It is cold out in the back lot, and he has spent the entire night down there. The least he can give himself is a moment of peace on the inside of the bookstore.

"Doctor Cong," Corbin says with a laugh, despite the horrible situation, he seems to find some humor to cling to. "Good thing you didn't turn into a giant ape." There would have been puns, and he would have made them. Instead he had been a kind of… cubby Godzilla. But the jesting drops as he frowns over the piece of paper, moving aside to let him in.

The cat follows as well, mrowling at the ankles. "Oh— I should feed him before I try to go down there," he says absently, moving back inside the warmer building as he digs around to pull out the bag of catfood and scoop some into a bowl.

"I'm not sure I understand it either." But from the furrow of his brow, the frown on his lips, he might have a suspicion.

The good(bad) doctor is in no mood to be laughed at, even so innocently, and he turns his eyes- Corbin may or may not notice they are different colors in this bright winter light- to narrow them at the other man as he goes inside. Ape jokes are apparently not funny at all. Ever. Bao-Wei squashes Fun with his shoes, then peels it off the sidewalk. Then throws it down and stomps on it again.

Annnd there is Groucho Cat, mewling for food and attention just like the day before. Bao-Wei does not intentionally ignore the cat, just that he is intent on finding a place to lean himself on inside; the front counter does perfectly as he puts his hand to the edge, and he even takes a moment to glance over at the broken front lock. Yes, he will have to spring for that- it is the least he can do for breaking in.

"I fear I only do not understand what it means for lack of knowing miss Ichihara in this less fantastical world. I can only guess its meaning, but the meaning of the contents of the cellar are much easier to decipher. Her father died in Midtown? And her mother?" Doctor Cong seems to have situated himself outside of his incident, and already is going into finding what new details that he can dig up. Research is as much a part of him as his blood- he takes to his own unsatiable curiosity like a duck to water.

"Her mother died before Midtown," Corbin explains quietly, but he looks toward the back of the store in curiousity. The fun has been smashed. No more giant ape jokes, despite the man's name. "I'll go down there and look around, but— next time don't break down the lock just to get inside. You could have investigated during business hours," he says. Next time? Well— one never knows. This situation isn't likely to happen again.

"Did you find any sign of the rest of those pages? Like— torn paper or anything? Gabriel's supposed to keep mice out, but I don't know how successful he is at it."

The cat with those black blotches above his eyes ignores them now, purring while he munches on his food.

"I have spent most of my life breaking the law. It is a hard habit to break, mister Ayers." Bao-Wei blames his actions on natural reaction. "Plus, there was no knowing if it happened to be time sensitive." Better safe than sorry. At this point, Doctor Cong has resumed preening the dust and webs off of himself while he speaks- out of his hair, off the suit, the whole drill, but only on the front of his suit. His pants are largely still dirty, and the back shoulders of his suitcoat. He stands with his broad back to the front door, one eye on Corbin. It seems like that, anyhow, as the hazel one has found him first.

"No sign of the other pages. It looked like they were torn out purposefully, so perhaps she hid them or burned them, what have you. Otherwise, everything down there seems to have belonged to her parents, or has something to do with them. There was even a photo of their wedding collecting dust with everything else- so I am not certain if they hold some major importance with this trouble in dreams, or if Ichihara simply needs to learn how to cope." There is a slight bitterness to his last words, but not necessarily for Hokuto.

"what the hell…"

IT's not a guy's voice, but a woman's and Corbin knows who it belongs to. Wendy here to put some time into helping re-organize the shelves - a project all the employee's seem intent on getting done - and to check to see what her schedule is so she knows when to tell Logan she'd be at the hospital. The large Asian all dusty and the like garners a bit of interest from the leggy evo and her tall statue, followed by Logan. "I got a taser, want me to nail him?" Obviously thinking that he broke in and is facing off with Corbin.

"She was never quite the same after her parents died," Corbin admits quietly, moving to push some books and other things around, to make sure nothing's missing on the counter. There's a few expensive things in the store, but— looting hasn't been too much of an issue. But there's another voice which draws his eyes, and then makes him laugh. "No, I don't think a taser is necessary. Dr. Cong…" King~ No, he's trying really hard not to snicker. He's failing a bit. How can he go from serious to funny in 30 seconds? "Is going to replace the lock. I don't think anything else has been damaged or taken."

Bao-Wei'shead and shoulders turn when the door opens, a light of recognition on his face when he realizes who it is. It is not a bad thing, but it is probably not a good thing either. He can also somehow smell shenanigans miles away if he has to- and he offers a bit of a word in to Corbin "I don't usually allow a first name basis, but if you are going to restrain yourself each time you address me, feel free to switch." Corbin is not the first one to do it, won't be the last.

"I didn't touch anything up here save for the tarot card box. And if you so much as reach for a taser, Hunter, you will regret it." Oohhh, look at that, he's in a mood.

It's when he turns around that Bao's recognized. That guy. Right. "He's not an evo boss, you're not an evo. Boy, you're in a good mood" One of her dealers. Not that she's visited of late and he can see why on her features. Someones at the start of withdrawl. "How you doing Doctor Cong" Pronounced the proper way. "Shouldn't touch the tarot cards. You're not supposed to touch them unless your being dealt them, or shuffling them for them to deal it. Bad luck. Or maybe it's you can't buy your own, someone has to gift them to you. Something like that"

She pats her purse none the less. "Won't be tasering you. Hey, you got the new schedules? I got a friend I need to sit with at the hospital. Wanna know when to tell him i'll be there. Damn Logan sleptwalked onto a bus"

Logan. Sleepwalked onto a bus.

Well, that explains one of the comments made in the dream a few nights ago. "I'm sorry to hear that… I think the store's going to open a little less this week." Corbin already had Kaylee take time off, and if Wendy needs some personal time too, with a friend in the hospital… Apparently for the same reason that Bao-Wei happens to be standing here… "You can take fewer hours. A friend in the hospital is more important. I don't think it will effect much if it's open less."

There are also more numerous sources than Cong; but the symptoms written all over her face get a vaguely considering look over. It's his job to know what is wrong with people, it's not hard to pick out the littlest of things. Her news makes him frown visibly.

"Damn. Well, if he is already in a hospital, there is not much that can be done to him, is there?" The question is only slightly rhetorical, and aimed at Corbin. "If I get bad luck from drawing the King of Swords, so be it. Cannot possibly give me worse luck than I had in the last year."

"No, no, I don't need less hours, just need to see when I won't be here. Fuck Corbin this place is only open four days, I'm pretty sure I can work those four days if need be. Besides, it's not like I work here for the money right?" Because they both know that money is not her issue. ABout a quarter of the sales each week seem to be coming from the same debit card, and it's hers.

The comments though garner glances back and forth between them. "You know John Logan?"

As she says that, Corbin just nods, moving around to the counter to dig up the schedule. Four days isn't a very long time, and even if Kaylee needs time off… He checks it over a few times, marks her out and puts himself in instead. He can use that time to check out what's downstairs, between customers.

"Here you go," he says, handing over the edited copy. "I don't know John Logan personally, no, but I heard about the bus crash."

"It would be a shame if I didn't know of him." Bao-Wei's answer is a bit more …cryptic, but sellable. "I know him peripherally." One hand goes up to pry a cobweb from his sleeve that he has missed. "If either of you will be here at another time, I will bring new locks for the front and the cellar." Perhaps he will even put them in himself, and possibly gain some of his dignity back in the process. It still hurts- his pride, that is.

Well, they don't know him that well it seems. There's as scrinch of Wendy's nose, a bit of a worry as to why Kaylee needs so much time off. She grabs the pen, scratching out Corbins name and putting her own in instead, taking up kaylee's shifts as well. She'll take over Kaylee's shifts, it's no biggie. "Store hours should be near the door Dr. Cong, i'll be around. Just try knocking first right?" The schedule is turned back over to Corbin. "You got shit to report. I'm not exactly rolling my hands in clay these days" She waggles her shortened digits. "When's Kaylee supposed to be back?"

"She just asked for this week for now, some kind of personal emergency," Corbin says, having not asked for details on it— he's got plenty of personal emergencies all on his own these days. Handling the store at all has been a personal emergency! That— seems to be spilling into the lives of more than he could imagine. "She should be back next week, though, or so I hope. I'll probably stick around today, so if you can get a new lock for today, that'd be good— if not, I'll be working tomorrow too, looks like." And as he glances toward the back of the store, he might be wanting to investigate something.

"Yes, I saw them when I knocked the lock off." The doctor amends, catching Corbin's look toward the back and giving the young man one last comment before heading for the door. "I hope you find what is down there more useful than I found it." Bao-Wei found something immensely useful, he knows, but as of right now he is not sure as to why it is so important that he was to locate that little book.

'Cool. Great" Wendy nods her head, digging around in her purse for a bottle of advil, pop two so she can swallow them and skirt around the counter so she can sit for a moment. Sit long enough to grab a marker and scribble the hours down along the inside of her arm while tapping her feet on the stool. "Hope she's okay. Take care Doctor Cong"

"You really don't have to work extra hours. I've been fortunate enough to have extra workers the last few weeks, so it won't hurt to do a little extra here too," Corbin says, though he doesn't grab a pencil and mark his name back on. After all, if they are both working at the same time, she can mind the store while he minds the basement. It all works out in the end. "I'm not sure Hokuto will appreciate me snooping around, but… If it helps her get better, hopefully she'll forgive me. It was nice to meet you in person, Dr … Bao. Can I just call you Bao?"

Maybe he just isn't used to such mundane things, but Bao-Wei seems torn on how to properly exit this situation for a moment; as it turns out, however, his actual reason is a bit different. He pauses by the door only to turn and move back towards the counter, his hand shuffling into his inside jacket pocket. "You may." He already said it, and part of him is glad that Corbin decided to change usage. Out of his pocket he draws a thick red envelope, roughly palm-sized. He sets it down on the counter deliberately before Corbin. Crimson red, gold stamping in an obvious pattern- Tigers.

"That is for her, whenever she returns. Goodbye." If Hokuto, god forbid, even does return. He simply leaves it there, promptly turning to go with only the sound of the door's bell behind him.

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