Unbroken Ground


ellen_icon.gif hao-tung_icon.gif

Scene Title Unbroken Ground
Synopsis Ellen sets out a proposition that doesn't make Hao-Tung entirely happy.
Date August 7, 2009

The Lucky Monkey

It isn't too horribly late, but the Lucky Monkey has closed for business for the day. The door is locked, the sign announcing in English and Chinese: CLOSED, Please Come Again Soon. Most of the overhead lights have been turned off, leaving it bathed in a strange half-glow; just a bit brighter than the ambient light outside so that the shadowy interior of the store can be seen through the windows. By the light of a cheap lamp, Ellen can be seen at the counter, going over the ledger for the day's sales, to make sure everything lines up with the cash and credit card slips in the till.

The timing had lined up quite nicely. Ellen isn't the only one to just have closed up shop; Hao-Tung had just successfully overseen his own latest business transaction, too— one involving the owner of an antique shop a few streets over and several well-paid goons. He had leisurely been making his way over to the Lucky Monkey after the fact, idly wondering what special occasion or request the woman might have had in mind to have invited him over specifically. The man had partially changed out of his business attire: now he is wearing a zip-up jacket over a collared shirt and slacks. Something a little more casual, so at least so as not to stand out in Chinatown's crowds.

His approach is obvious; a darkly growing figure visible through the glass window out front, dimly lit though the inside of the shop may be. -Raprap- go his knuckles on the locked door, though Ellen should be able to see him just fine, and then he settles himself to wait. Why walk allll the way around to the back when the front is right here?

He doesn't have to wait too long, of course. Ellen glances up in time to see him approaching, which gives her just enough time to finish counting off the current row, hastily jotting down the number in its appropriate little square so that she doesn't lose her place. Her pencil is set down then, and the till pushed closed out of habit: when customers are here, she would never walk away and leave it open. Hao-Tung earns himself a smile as she approaches on the door, deftly twisting back the deadbolt and then pulling it open to the jangle of the bells that hang above. «Glad you could make it,» she greets, gesturing him inside while she holds the door open, so that she can lock it again behind him.

Thanks to how the majority of his day had progressed— the look in the antique shopkeeper's eyes had consistently been priceless- Hao-Tung is in a mood that's better than usual, and Ellen is the recipient of a quirk of a smile in return. Both of his hands stay in his pockets, where they had gone promptly after his knock, when he is allowed into the store. "«I don't mind.»" He makes his way further inside in his own time, briefly glancing at the darkened merchandise around him and spending a second looking Ellen up and down, too. "«Good business, today?»" The question is mostly just for the sake of a conversation starter; he's half-disinterested.

«It was fine. Never as good as it used to be, but … I've had some luck lately,» Ellen replies with a small smile, not bothering him with details. She isn't oblivious to his lack of real interest, nor is she offended by it. Instead, once he's inside and the door has been locked behind him, she leans in to greet him with an understated peck on the cheek. «And how was your day?» she goes on, as she draws back and begins leading the way back over to the counter again. No sense lingering right here by the door.

The peck is responded to with a subtle sense of satisfaction. It doesn't extend to Hao-Tung's expression, quite, but it's clear that he's hardly bothered by the gesture. "«Not bad,»" he answers contentedly, striding over so that he can pace back and forth by the counter, where all her work his. "«I had a visit with Doctor Cong earlier this morning. This old thing»"— He indicates his leg with a short tap on the kneecap, the man bending a little so he can do so— "«has been acting up worse than usual. But I'll live. Any particular reason why I've been graciously invited over»?" His curiosity has already gotten the better of him, at this point.

Ellen's gaze shifts down to the indicated knee and there is a bit of concern in her expression. There is a stool behind the counter, used during those long days with few customers, but while she leaves it unused and unoccupied, she doesn't immediately rush to offer it to him. She just isn't the fussing sort. Instead, his question gets a smile from her as her gaze comes back up, though there's a very slight but palpable hesitance too - uncharacteristic for her. This is, after all, new ground. «I was hoping we could discuss something. I have been thinking. There is a great deal of time to think in the lulls between customers,» she notes somewhat wryly, though it's also a way of bringing her point around.

Oh pish tush, Hao-Tung needs neither a stool nor coddling. It's not all that bad— he's not even walking with a noticeable limp, after all. He does ignore the premise of sitting entirely, opting to remain pacing around, one wrist now clasped behind his back. «"Yes?"» The strange hesitance from Ellen doesn't go without notice, and he eyes her a little more curiously than he had been doing, taking his gaze away from a brief glance out the window to do so.

«This store, it cannot sustain itself,» Ellen states, extremely practical in a way that might contradict just how much this place actually means to her. «But what you said, the other day when we were about: about facades…» She trails off into a pregant pause, watching him closely in return, figuring he might be able to guess where this is going, and she, in turn, can gauge which way the wind is blowing on this idea of hers.

Whether Hao-Tung realizes it at once or not, he stays silent for a few moments longer, brooding. "«You want this store to have more of a function than it does,»" he summarizes shortly, still watching Ellen's face quite closely. Unrefined he may be, but at least he isn't slow on the uptake where it counts. "«Is the store truly doing so poorly?»" And is what he contributes to the store really not enough? She knows, after all, what a possibly dangerous proposition she is making.

«Yes,» Ellen confirms simply, nodding just once. There's no point denying, and she doesn't rush in with too many explanations. There's a determination to her expression that suggests she won't too easily be dissuaded from the idea either, though a tightness around her eyes reveals that she isn't oblivious to what a loaded idea this is. «It is not doing well. I'd like for it… to sustain itself.» Not that she doesn't appreciate his charity, of course.

"«And your family. They're amenable to that idea?>" Impressively supportive family, if so. Hao-Tung brings one large hand up to stroke, once, at the five o'clock shadow covering his lower jaw. The suggestion doesn't seem to have produced a reaction in him one way or another, yet; mostly thoughtfulness at which way the results could swing. And he won't need an excess of explanations, either. "«Also. How large of a role do you think you'll be playing?»" That's the more important question to him at this juncture. Is she expecting to only have a blind eye she can turn on and off, or is she intending to take on bigger shoes altogether?

«Let me worry about them.» It is a concern, but Ellen won't be talked out of the idea so easily. And the matter of her parents had occurred to her. «I've already been minimizing their role in the day-to-day operations.» Not that this is an idea she's had percolating for awhile or anything. To his question, she gives a casual shrug, leaning a hip against the glass case that serves as a counter. «As large a role as is necessary.» She's not entirely sure how large a role that is, truth be told. There's a slight pause before she adds a little more earnestly: «I can handle it.»

Most traces of Hao-Tung's previously good mood vanish as Ellen says this, sucked right into a new composure that is considerably more tense. And ill-tempered. He eyes the woman, making no show of disguising the motion. Eyes. "«After what Song has dared to do, I hope you're not thinking of moving yourself up into the triad." There is a kind of low, irate warning in his voice; she's well aware of what he's talking about, all right. "«I shall have to discuss it with one or two of my colleagues,»" Presumably not Song or Liu if at all possible, because, well, fffft, "«But your own role remains to be seen. Remember that.»"

After a long moment, he does add— grudgingly, "«Though if it were to happen, and I am not saying it will, I probably can't think of someone more suitable.»"

«Where am I going to move to?» Ellen replies, meeting his eyeing with a level expression. Anyone else, she might play up being demure and meek, but she doubts he'd buy it and she knows he wouldn't appreciate it, so he gets an almost non-expression. «I simply want to see this place succeed. Clearly it needs to adapt to the changing times, same as we all have had to. That is all.» She isn't lying either. Thus far, that is as far as her motivation goes. Of course, knowing her, should an opportunity arise, she wouldn't turn it down. His grudging addition gets a small smile from her, however grudging it may be. «Thank you. Coming from you, that means a great deal. Just - you will at least think about it?»

"«I will think about it.»" There are absolutely no promises on top of that acknowledgement, which Hao-Tung lets Ellen know with a very straightforward, somewhat odd -look-. It's best he leaves now, since he does need space to think about this, and his disposition isn't going to be improved by hanging around in the lingering mood of the after-request longer than he has to. With a harsh clearing of his throat, he turns to head squarely back to the door of the shop, covering up the distance in large, distinct strides. "«But you know better than to press your luck.»" That's less a warning than a cold statement of fact; she knows it, too, from experience. "«I have a great deal of paperwork I need to finish tonight as well.»"

«Of course,» Ellen replies simply, her expression still extremely neutral. It could have gone worse, really, though it's still always a little disappointing when things don't go better. There will be no luck-pressing from her - at least not tonight. Not unless it seems more certain this method won't work and she has to find some other way… But there's no sense worrying about that yet, while he is still thinking about it. «Ah yes. Paperwork. I've some of my own.» Her voice is quiet, sensing that he is really not in a conversing mood but feeling the need to say something. Assuming that he can manage the locked door on his own, she simply watches from her post behind the counter, expression thoughtful now, slightly concerned.

Hao-Tung does not grace the woman with a parting comment, but only a rough 'hmph' and a final, brusque glance at her that doesn't have much to reveal about what he's thinking. He hasn't been left with much of a conversing mood, that's true, but neither has he been left inclined to be very open either.

With that in the air, he finishes the task he had been halfway through completing, working the door open so he can step out. Ellen will be left alone with her thoughts, and soon enough, so will he.

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