Wheel Of Conviction


corbin_icon.gif lydia_icon.gif

Scene Title Wheel of Conviction
Synopsis After many months, Ichihara Bookstore and it's new owner get a visit from an old friend.
Date January 22, 2011

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".

Ichihara Bookstore has been freakishly quiet for the last couple of months, but diligently, every day, Lydia has opened it. At least she's persistent. In fact, she's turned the sign if she's available when the bookstore is strictly closed. Mostly to encourage much needed foot traffic.

The bookstore itself has been entirely reorganized twice over. There are no longer boxes of books, just shelves upon shelves organized by subject and then author. Behind the front desk, Lydia purchases on her regular stool with Gabriel the cat laying on the counter in front of her, his tail twitching irritably. She's reading a book, something she's found herself doing more often than not around here— this particular one is titled The Jane Austen Book Club.

The high pitched whistle of her kettle diverts her attention, however, causing her to relegate her book next to Gabriel while she shoots the cat a wry smile, "Tea?" the question is met with an arching of her eyebrows. "Or perhaps you'd rather have a bowl of milk?"

The sign turned around encourages visitors wandering by, or at least it encourages one today. As the door opens and closes, a small bell tolls, heralding the visitor to the bookstore. Shaggy hair has become long enough to curl on his head, twisting onto his forehead, and his stubble has become nearly a full beard, dark and hiding half of his face.

The disguise doesn't do much to hide those familiar blue eyes, or the smile that still comes to his face at the sight of the place. "You've really put this place together," he says in soft tones as he moves into the store, looking around the bookshelves to confirm his suspicions, that they are alone.

"It's even good to see you again, brat," he lowers cold hand down onto the cat's head as he gets closer. "Glad to see you're still here. I heard about all the lockdowns and got concerned."

The bell actually startles Lydia. It's a nearly unsettling sound in the echoing quiet of the store. She inhales a deep breath, fully prepared to step into a role more formal than mere reader behind the counter, however, the breath is exhaled slowly with a smile of recognition as she catches his eyes. Her own fingers splay against the counter while her lips edge upwards. "Thank you," she soothes with that rich tone.

Her dark eyes flit downwards to the cat and then back to Corbin, "We were equally concerned. I am afraid the store has seen better days." Although it is open, something she's maintained through it all. The smile fades a little as she turns to the kettle, "Tea?" the offer, much like that which she'd given Gabriel, is accompanied by high arching eyebrows.

"I registered before. To keep it. It is somewhat unsettling to be on record with anyone, but I do what I must." Her dark eyes watch him carefully, "In light of everything, you have been well?"

"Well, everyone has to be registered now if they want to go anywhere or live anywhere," Corbin says with a hint of a sigh to his voice, as if this direction is part of the reason he's wearing a beard, part of the reason he sold the store as quickly as he could, to a woman he barely knew. She couldn't know he's wanted, could she? He doesn't concern himself too much with it as he shakes his head at the offer of tea.

"No thanks on the tea, but I think I'd like a reading, if you're still doing them," he says, moving away for a moment to the bookshelves, before the dastardly cat decides to eat his ankles. It looks as if he's browsing for something, and since everything has been rearranged, he may need some extra time.

"I've been okay, can't say the same for everyone, but… I'm okay. I was glad to see the store was still here, though I wouldn't have blamed you entirely if it wasn't. I didn't expect Roosevelt to get locked down this badly— do you have any employees?"

Lydia sucks in a quiet breath and smiles ruefully, "I promised I would keep it open as long as I could. Still able, still willing, so I am here." Her voice is nearly a whisper. "We considered leaving, yet with things being what they are, I am uncertain where we would go." The elusive 'we' is left to Corbin's imagination, vague enough in its generality.

As for employees, "My employees have vanished one by one. Not that I am entirely surprised with circumstances being what they are. I imagine many have it worse than we do." Her gaze flits to the deck of cards wrapped in her shawl next to the register and she shoots Corbin a wry smile. "It has been some time since anyone has requested, but it would be my pleasure."

"Ah, there they are," Corbin calls out from where he has disappeared into the stacks, and spends a few moments there as well. One could imagine him running his finger along the bindings of books to find the one he's looking for. "That's a shame— those cards are meant to be used," he calls out, even as she hears a book sliding against the wooden shelving as it's pulled out.

When he reappears he's holding a thick Atlas, of all things. One of the updated ones, but still as much as five years old. Countries change too fast sometimes, maps get rewritten. Setting it down heavily on the counter, he rests it there, big enough to act as a small table for the reading, but small enough to fit.

"I guess you could say I'm hoping the cards give me the same answer you're uncertain of— where." And doing the reading on top of an Atlas probably seems like a good joke to him, from the way he's smiling broadly.

The cards are slowly unwrapped from the shawl, there's a gingerness given the garment and the cards as she unfolds them from it. Carefully she shuffles the deck, giving the cards the bit of grace she can. Her tongue rolls over her lips as she holds out the deck for Corbin. "Please cut the deck and consider carefully what you want to know." The request is smooth. Carefully she refolds the shawl, placing it aside.

Her eyes turn down to the atlas. "Trying to find someone? Perhaps yourself?" Not that she necessarily expects the questions to be answered. Quietly she leans forward on her stool, perching a little further on its edge.

When the deck is returned she lays out the cards in her standard five card layout.

"Well, everyone's trying to find themselves half the time— cause when you do think you find yourself, life has other ideas," Corbin says with a amused laugh, despite the fact that life has, at times, been rather harsh to him. Best friend murdered in this very place, for one of them. Company falling apart, him becoming wanted— having to run off to California to make an attempt to save his family, even if that meant destroying their lives as they knew it. He's not sure his brother will ever forgive him for that, but he thinks it's better than the alternatives.

"But at least this time I know what I want— so hopefully that will make this reading easier on you."

What he wants and what he needs may be two seperate things, as he takes the deck carefully and begins to cut it into different sections, not looking at them as he plops one part onto another, and then under another, and then cuts it again. And again.

What he needs to know, mostly, is where he's needed most. Here, or somewhere else.

There's a fluidity in Lydia's movement as she reaches for the first card, the centre card in the spread. Her dark eyes trail up to Corbin, however, rather than the card as her fingers gently tuck underneath it. "This card, the first in the layout represents your present, the theme for our reading today." Her lips press together into a thin neutral line as her dark lashes indicate a downward turn of her gaze. Ace of Pentacles. Her chin ticks forward.

"Practicality. Your present is about the practical rather than the whimsical. It represents what must completed rather than what cannot be undone. Desire has little to do with it, there is something more implicit, more important at hand." She returns the card to the set, still turned upwards to show that picture.

"Practicality is good," Corbin says quietly, before he suddenly feels a set of kitty claws on his pant legs. Looking down, away from the Atlas and the set of cards, he meets the eyes of the cat, the only other witness to Hokuto's death, and doesn't try to kick him away. Gabriel can stay as long as he needs to, even if it means sharpening his claws on the other man's pants.

Good thing they're thick for winter this time. It was less pleasant in the summer months.

Returning his eyes to the tattooed woman, he nods. "I see you haven't fixed his habit of sharpening his claws on my legs. Continue, please."

"I make no effort to tame that which cannot be controlled. To live in a restrictive cage would damage any soul, animalistic or not," is Lydia's rich reply, which seems humourless aside from the slight curl of her lips, hinting at some other deep seated meaning, but as usual there is no easy explanation, no clarifications, and no reason to give them.

Her red fingernails turn to the second card in the layout, left of the first. "This one represents the past and its influence in your current crisis." Seven of Swords. Her eyebrows tighten together while she quietly hmmms. A single finger taps against the card as she returns it to the layout, this time right-side-up.

"You saw yourself as a lone wolf in a way," she nearly whispers. "There was a season, a time for retreat, where you had to be. There was reason for it." Her lips purse together curiously as she reaches for the third card, "The future card is the most elusive, the most telling, the most changeable." The Wheel of Fortune. "The future holds a turning point. Things are going to be shaken up, transformed perhaps. The balance is changing."

Retreat— yeah, that's what it had been. Months of retreat, with the fastest woman on the planet to help him along the way. Corbin can't help but laugh a bit at the second card, even as the laughter fades into a thoughtful pressing together of his lips at the third. Fingers scratch on his dark beard as he considers what to say, even as she can hear a cat claw-claw-clawing on his pants.

He can't help wondering if the mongrel blames him for what happened to Hokuto. Or maybe he blames himself enough for everyone else.

"Is there anything I need to do to reach this turning point, you think? Or is this one of those… it will happen because or in spite of whatever it is I do?"

Lydia's tight-lipped smile melts into a neutral line, tight and thin. "The future is tricky. The moment we look at it, the moment we consider it, it changes. There's something amorphous about it. The cards cannot tell the reason, but as this is your reading, your fortune, I see it as the potential. If practicality wins out, if the practical transpires as it should, then the wheel will spin."

The words are actually followed by a faint shrug, particularly as her teeth graze her bottom lip. Her dark eyes narrow with consideration, quietly contemplating the card, only to be interrupted by that cat claws. Finally for this she apologizes, "I am sorry. I believe I have allowed him to be more wild than I ought." She slides off the stool to peek down at the cat, "Gabriel." The chide is nothing more than a name, and the tone isn't harsh as much as it is disappointed. This, of course, does little to divert the beast, bringing a quiet hmmm to Lydia's lips. Again she frowns, remembering her scratches when the kittens had taken over the store. Her tongue rolls over her lips as she rounds the counter only to stop, holding up a single finger.

She moves back around the counter and crouches underneath it to a small mini fridge to extract a carton of milk. She reaches for one of the cracked teacups and pours the milk into its saucer which she sets on the floor behind the counter. She makes a quiet clucking noise with her tongue. "Gabriel," she calls him.

"It's not your fault, Miss Lydia," Corbin says as the cat disengadges and hops up for pettings. He is purring, despite the clawing he'd been doing. Maybe he thinks clawing Corbin is a sign of affection. "He always used to do this, honestly," he adds, with a laugh, looking at the absurd black splotches on the cat's otherwise white face that make him look somehow innocent… and strange all at the same time.

"So that's the forturne if I do what I was planning to do before I ever had my fortune read— it means I should just continue with my plans, as strange as they were." Reaching into his pocket, he pulls out an envelope and hands it across. "For the reading, and the Atlas, and for keeping the bookstore open, despite bad weather." And he doesn't actually mean the winter.

Inside is a tidy stack of cash, likely long withdrawled from a bank, and not easily tracable. It's far more than the Atlas or the reading together, but… and around the bundle of bills is a newspaper article, cut out of a paper from out west, about the Evolved soldier who recently died, fighting for what he believed.

"The article is an old tradition I used to have— I would give Hokuto an article every time I visited, usually nice or heart warming stories. Those are harder to find these days… But keep up the good work. I'll try to stop in every so often."

"The store will be open until I am unable to keep it that way," Lydia replies quietly as she reaches for the article, taking in the headline. "I do not imagine the clouds will clear in the near future, but I will continue until I cannot." Or until Edgar carries her away. Not that she's been particularly amenable in that plan, not when she's made a promise.

She manages a tight smile, "People are fighting for what they believe in, yet so much has been lost. Families have been torn apart again. What people cling to, what they long for, it's created disaster." Her voice comes out breathier than normal, lacking that deep richness that she generally exudes. "Perhaps if we all stood for what we believed the world would be wholly different."

She frowns slightly as her chin cants towards him, "Mister Ayers, be careful. Practical or not, even if the wheel turns, the cards cannot tell us which way it will go, just that one season becomes another. The cards aren't moral, they're merely cardboard." Her lips press together again as she hmms, "I know you want to stand for more than the world would have you. I know you have been conflicted for some time. But you cannot act out of that conflict." Her head shakes, "Act out of conviction." There's another pause before she adds, "There will come a time when all we will have is our convictions and I will you the peace you need to stand within your own."

"The cards don't need to be moral when the people who read them are," Corbin says with a small bow of his head, before he ruffles the big cat face with his palm and starts to move back toward the door. "Thank you for the advice. I'll do my best to follow it." As he has tried to before. If only he knew exactly what to do with his convictions all the time…

And if life would stop throwing curve balls.

Moving away, he carries the Atlas with him, held firm against his chest, leaving the money and the article behind. It won't be enough to remodel the whole building, or anything, but it should pay property taxes for a time.

"I hope this place finds a way to give back what you've given to it someday soon," he adds as he touches the door and pulls it open. This time the bell tolls to announce his leaving. Hopefully it will not be the last time she hears it today.

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