Wheel of Fortune
Author: Green Phantom Queen
Summary: Mei Shirakawa of Subaruboshi High keeps her friends and tarot deck close to her heart. Yet, for all she knows, she can't remember that moment when her best friend, Ryusei Sakuta, came to visit Madame Pollux for a fortune or the fate that he decided for his own. With each card she draws, Mei soon finds herself unknowingly involved with Ryusei's fate, and also with her own as well.
Note: This is the sequel to "Who Decides?" and side-story to "Horseshoes and Hand-grenades." Takes place before "Horseshoes and Hand-grenades"
Reading 1: II The High Priestess (Upright)
"Tarot is just stories on cards."
"Do you decide if this fate is yours or do I? Who decides?"
Ryusei smiled and immediately, answered back, "I decide my own fate."
There was an uneasy silence as both fortune-teller and patron stared into each other's eyes. Then, the fortuneteller just nodded her head.
"Very well," she said. "I am glad we had this encounter. Go and have fun in your festival, and may we cross paths in the next life."
Ryusei gave a quick goodbye as he left the tent, leaving behind a burst of sunlight in his wake.
BEEP! BEEP! BEEP!
The sound of the alarm clock woke Mei Shirakawa from her slumber. She turned and saw it was 7:15, the time that she would normally wake up to prepare for school. She frowned—she didn't want to go to school for the last few months due to the new tyrant that was running it. She pressed a button that turned off her alarm clock and sat up, running a hand through her hair.
She looked outside, seeing raindrops patter against her windowsill. Great. Now she had to worry about both what the 'King of Subaruboshi High' had planned for her and the rain. She wished she could do something about Yamada Tatsumori's sick and twisted theater game he played in her school, but what would that accomplish? Any and all attempts to usurp him have failed, seeing as he could transform into that devilish sheep and place anyone into a never-ending slumber should they fail in their 'roles', whatever they may be. She was lucky to just play as a regular student—she could've been her PE teacher teaching English, and poor Azusa-sensei's pronunciation wasn't up to par with Yamada's wishes.
"Mei-chan!" cried a voice. "Get up!"
"I'm up," Mei cried, getting out of bed. "I'll be down in a minute, Mom."
As she began to place her tan school uniform on, Mei picked up her Tarot Deck lying on her desk and shuffled through it. It gave her a bit of comfort to just run her fingers through the cards and see what her fortune would be. It was if she was asking fate to tell her that Yamada's tyranny would soon end, and that things will turn out for the better. Closing her eyes, she drew a card.
When she opened her eyes, Mei saw the figure of an upright woman dressed in a long white gown and a crescent moon nesting near her feet. On either sides of the woman were two pillars—the one on the left being black, the one on the right being white. On top of the woman's head was a horned crown with a circle nestled between it, and in her hands was a book.
"The High Priestess," Mei whispered. "Second of the Major Arcana, she represents untouched wisdom. This means that I have to use my gut feeling to sense something wrong." She placed her deck down and went toward her bag, slinging it over her shoulder. She then heard a low rumbling sound. "Well, this 'gut feeling' tells me that I need breakfast, and that I shall get."
Having prepared everything for that morning, Mei left her room and closed the door shut.
After breakfast, Mei opened her umbrella and left the house, walking underneath the rain. She took a deep breath as she smelled the fresh rain air and sighed. The rain was only making her thoughts become gloomier than usual. Now she was going to have to go through today—with all of those stupid lines memorized—with the rain as company. Her role was 'Lonely Girl staring at the Window', a solitary role that meant that she couldn't be involved communicating with her friends at all. If she had her way, she'd cast Yamada as the 'Sick and Cruel Boy Thrown out the Second Story Window'.
Brushing that thought aside, Mei pondered that dream she had this morning. It was always the same: it was Madame Pollux talking to Ryusei about fate and Ryusei leaving the tent. No matter how hard she tried, Mei could never figure out what happened at the School Festival. In fact, when she tried to talk to Ryusei about it, he said not to worry about it at all! Some friend he was...
She tried to think earlier than that, when she was preparing to leave the tent. Her shift was already over, having successfully done two palm readings and three tarot readings in her time. Noticing the time on her watch, Mei was gathering the items and was about to remove the outfit for Madame Pollux when...nothing. She couldn't recall what happened after she packed up everything, but there was always this nagging feeling that someone or something wanted to communicate a message. She couldn't get it out of her mind—who possessed her and why?
As Mei approached the school campus and trudged her way to her desk by the window, she looked at her classmates all quiet and nervous. She couldn't blame them—everyone had to be on their best 'behavior' or else Yamada would use his magic wand to cast them into a perpetual sleep. She narrowly avoided a treatment a few weeks ago—when she accidentally spilled her lunch all over the floor—and promised not to let herself be caught like that ever again. Unfortunately, being docile wasn't enough to stop the named "Apostle of Sleep" and his dictatorship.
"Attention students," Yamada announced over the speakers. "Welcome to another day at school. I hope you memorized your lines for the day. I wouldn't want to intrude on anyone's day after all."
Yamada let out a laugh as everyone sat still, hands in front of them. Mei just narrowed her eyes. If only she had the power to end that devilish sheep's reign...she couldn't sit still and let him get away with this injustice! The only question was how much longer would this last? How long until there would be someone who would liberate everyone from this unholy reign?
The only answer that Mei could come up with was that Yamada's rule wasn't going to end now. Instead, she would have to endure another day of acting like a quiet girl staring at the window and see the rain fall down. Once she heard Yamada no longer squawking away, she immediately turned her gaze toward that fated window, watching the rain as it was written in her script.
It was time for the lunch, or 'Intermission' as Yamada put it, and Mei just pulled out her Tarot Deck and bento box. Ever since that day in Madame Pollux's fortune tent, she had been trying to draw the three cards that were used in Ryusei's reading, in hopes of understanding just what went on. Her friends were telling her that she was going crazy—what was so important about three Tarot Cards that she had to use every free moment she had to go through her deck?
For one thing, there were 78 cards in a Tarot Deck, and all cards had different meanings depending on whether they were upright or upside-down. Using her calculator, Mei discovered that she would have to go through a maximum of 620,620 combinations of three card spread-outs in order to replicate the exact reading that she gave to Ryusei. More importantly, she would have to compare that to the ones she gave prior to Ryusei's in order for it to match up. The chances of her finding that combination was as equal to finding snow in August, as it were.
Still, she had to persevere. In order to put these dreams to rest, she had to find that exact reading. Whatever Ryusei heard that made him smile like that had to be of good news.
Mei closed her eyes and felt her hands shuffle the deck. When her fingers brushed against the cards' edges, she only concentrated on moving the cards around, not caring whether or not if a card was flipped during the process. She mentally counted up to a thousand by tens, her tarot deck dancing in her hands. When she finally reached a thousand, she slammed the deck onto her desk and fanned the cards out. Opening her eyes, Mei Shirakawa pulled out a small notepad from her pocket, reading all of her recent readings for the past few days.
Wheel of Fortune (up), Queen of Swords (down), The Hanged Man (down)
The Fool (down), Temperance (up), Three of Coins (down)
The Star (down), Nine of Cups (up), The World (up)
With each combination written, it seemed as if there would be no end to how long it would take to find that right reading, but Mei wasn't worried. She would find her answer soon enough.
Setting the notepad down, Mei lifted her hand and waved it over her deck, trying to decide which card to pick. Regarding her morning tarot card—The High Priestess—she concentrated on the gut feeling inside her. Her hand slowly wavered over two cards before finally landing on one. She pulled the card and flipped it over, amazed at what she found. The card depicted six golden goblets, their rims facing upside-down. When she saw this card, Mei felt a surge of power blooming inside her—this was one of the cards in Ryusei's reading!
"An inverted Six of Cups," she whispered. "Ryusei has been thinking about something that affected him the past...something that deeply hurt him."
She set the card down and immediately wrote the name of the card on her notepad. Then, her hand hovered over the remaining seventy-seven cards. It swept back and forth, carefully deciding which card would represent the present. The hand soon rested on a card in the middle, revealing itself to be four golden coins etched with pentagrams. The words "Four of Coins" remained upright.
"A Four of Coins represents how one is tied up with something," Mei whispered, setting the card down. "Ryusei's all right at where he's at, but he'll eventually cross a point where his actions become selfish than generous. Could it possibly be due to the inverted Six of Cups?"
She wrote down the card's name before reaching for one final card. The third card was the one that made Ryusei happy—the card that represented the endless possibilities of the future would be the one that would answer everything. She now had a very slim chance on finding the last card that would lead her to the truth. She couldn't fail now.
Mei's fingers twitched over three specific cards bundled up in the middle. Her cut feeling was telling her that one of those three was going to give her the true story of that fateful reading. She felt as if Madame Pollux's spirit was guiding her to the exact card. Without even thinking, she pulled out the card, revealing nine staffs all covered in vines. The words "Nine of Rods" were all upright.
At that moment, Mei winced and dropped the card onto her desk. Placing a hand onto her forehead, she could feel memories coming back. She saw herself in Madame Pollux's fortune tent, dressed in the fortune-teller's blue cloak. Standing across from her was Ryusei, who looked happier than she had ever seen him. Just as Ryusei was about to jump for joy, Madame Pollux—or rather Mei, herself—began to speak.
"However," said Madame Pollux, waking Ryusei from his thoughts. "There seems to be a small obstacle in your path just as everything is about to turn right." The fortune-teller smiled underneath her veil. "Do not worry about it though—by this time, you would have everything you need to complete your task. You must be persistent, but you must also take precaution. Expect the worst to come in these types of situations."
Madame Pollux began to gather the three cards—the inverted Six of Cups, and both upright Four of Coins and Nine of Rods back into the spread out deck before speaking. "You have good things coming to you, Sakuta. Now then, I must ask you one question..."
"What's that?" asked Ryusei, hands gripping onto the table. It looked like he was about to burst from excitement from the looks of it.
"Do you decide if this fate is yours or do I? Who decides?"
The memory faded away as Mei opened her eyes. Those last two questions were the very same ones that haunted her in her sleep. The three cards in front of her were the same as in that memory—she finally found what she was looking for. The only question now was, what was she going to do with that knowledge?
She took a glance at the clock—in twenty minutes, lunch would be over. Seeing as she wasn't going to 'continue class' on an empty stomach, Mei gathered her tarot deck, placed it into her bag, said a small prayer, and began to eat. She took her first step in finding the reading. Now she would have to confront Ryusei the next time she saw her so she can ask why he came there in the first place.
While she ate, she was unaware of the serpent who emerged from the shadows, observing her every movement. It stayed silent before disappearing back into the darkness.
Next time: Mei's wishes to see Ryusei come true, but the situation that he's placed in is one that Mei cannot perceive. What is Ryusei searching for? And is there anything Mei can do to help him?
Second Reading: XII The Hanged Man (upright)