Shoujoai ni Bouken: Adventures of Yuriko

The Story So Far: Having had time to experience a range of emotions over the subject, Yuriko now seeks to find some closure regarding her parents' death.


Volume 3, Issue 10

"One Small Step"


The next morning was a flurry of chaos and disorder. Yuriko, having set the alarm, managed to sleep through it entirely, setting up a string of mishaps. As she and Shannon hustled about the apartment trying to get prepared for their day, the various stumbling, tripping, dropping and cursing took on a comedic air of its own. Yuriko and Shannon bumbled their way through their morning ablutions, dressing and breakfast.

The two women left the apartment together. Yuriko leaned over to kiss Shannon goodbye. The American returned the kiss with some enthusiasm, a spectacle that caused Yuriko's neighbor no end of surprise. The blonde smiled politely and bowed, while the woman gaped at the two of them.

It wasn't until Yuriko sat in the back seat of the car that awaited her, that she could think about what she was about to do. She looked at the grim man and woman that accompanied her. Wires rose from their collars and entered their ears. Why they felt the need to be wired on this trip, Yuriko was unsure. It wasn't like they'd be out of shouting distance...maybe they felt uncomfortable without their radios. She gave an internal shrug. She took in their expressionless faces, the sunglasses that hid their eyes and she briefly wondered if they were really security - or just actors that played bodyguards. They were so...stereotypical.

"Excuse me, ma'am..." The man turned around in the front seat, and addressed Yuriko politely. "We've got confirmation from the airport, the plane will be ready when you get there."

Yuriko was relieved. She wasn't the kind of idol to hide from a crowd of admirers, but today wasn't the day for it. And the media was another story. The last thing in the world she wanted was to see her real name all over the tabloids. She grimaced - the last thing her family would want, too.

Yuriko closed her eyes, and let her head sink back onto the car seat. She could sense the woman seated next to here, smell her scent - something crisp and sharp. Like the weather that morning, it brought to mind cold, clear air and wood smoke. Yuriko found herself falling into a half sleep as the car wove its way through morning traffic.

She dreamed her mother was combing out her hair, which was long, as it had been when she was very young. It was very tangled and she cried out as her mother forced the comb through a knot. Her mother's voice was sharp and thin as she remonstrated with Yuriko. Yuriko looked down at her legs, and bit her lip as the tears began to fall, but was yelled at once again. Her mother reached out and dragged Yuriko from her seat, forcing her to run to keep up with her mother's quick steps. They walked a long time; Yuriko's little legs were tired, but she said nothing knowing it would only gain her a reprimand, or maybe even a slap.

Yuriko was seated roughly in a barber's chair. She watched in a mirror as long tresses fell to her shoulders, then the floor. She could see her mother's reflection above her own, looking old and saddened. When the barber was done, Yuriko ran her hands through her newly shortened hair and stood. She turned, but her mother was no longer there. Once again an adult, she straightened her jacket, thanked the barber and left the building. She looked for her parents, but they were nowhere to be seen.

The car stopped with a jerk. Yuriko's eyes snapped open. She allowed the security man and woman to precede her to the plane, check the interior, and report back to her before she entered her seat.

*From one chair to another,* she thought, as she seated herself in the small plane. The three of them were the only ones on the plane and her companions seemed content to let her sit in silence.

The flight was unexceptional and thankfully, short. Before she knew it, she was in yet another car, heading through a town she once knew well. Some things looked familiar. Many did not, but it all seemed so removed - like a set she had once acted upon. But not like a place she had lived.

The cemetery overlooked the ocean. If the wind stopped for a moment, one could hear the gulls and smell the salt, but the wind rarely ceased. A small, stooped man met her at the gate and silently led the way into the cemetery. The wind whistled as they walked, Yuriko hunching against its chill, focusing on the wan sun that warmed her back. She wondered what the bodyguards thought of all this. She wondered what she thought of it all, too. She couldn't get a bead on her own emotions - it all felt too unreal, as if it was part of someone else's life.

The short man bowed and gestured to a stone, then without a word, disappeared. Yuriko silently thanked Kishi for her attention to detail. The manager had made this as painless as she could - and Yuriko was extremely grateful. She turned to ask the guards to give her a moment alone, but they were already gone. She could see the woman a few meters away, looking out towards the sea, while the man had his back to her, and was facing the entrance of the graveyard.

Yuriko forced herself, at last, to face the carved pillar in front of her, to actually read the names on its still-shiny surface. She stared at the characters for a long time, but no words came to her; no thoughts of comfort, or thanks, or regret. It was if they were strangers, she thought, someone's parents I never knew, and was asked to visit. But she knew that wasn't true. She leaned over to light a stick of incense, and placed the flowers she had brought on the pedestal of the stone.

"I'm sorry," she muttered, barely able to speak. "I really am. I'm sorry I wasn't what you wanted in a daughter - I'm sorry that it didn't work out." Her voice broke. This wasn't what she needed to say. This wasn't what they needed to hear.

She stood, looking at their names, trying to remember good moments, when her father had took her to the local shrine festival and bought her sweets, when her mother had showed her how to make noodles. But they were so long ago - and there had been so many years when it hadn't been good. She remembered the looks on their faces the last time she had seen them. They looked old, angry, unhappy, bitter.

How dare you, she thought. All I did was love someone - and you punished me for it. I can never forgive you for that. Her face tightened with anger and hurt. "Mother, Father," she said out loud, quietly, but firmly, "goodbye." But she didn't move. The wind wailed, and the sun was blocked out by a passing cloud. Yuriko appreciated the irony for a moment. Taking a few steps away from the marker, she looked out onto the distant ocean - black with whitecaps barely discernible at this distance. The woman bodyguard glanced at her, then turned away discreetly.

Yuriko looked back at the stone. She froze where she stood. On the side of the memorial, tucked between the stone and a rock that had been placed to hold it, was a black vinyl envelope. Yuriko stepped closer. There was some writing on the envelope; she leaned down to read it and her heart stopped. As the cold wind entered her chest, she read something she had thought never to see again....

Tsuchiya Yuriko

The gold lettering - hand painted, flaking off, worn but legible - stood out on the dark background. Yuriko reached out for the envelope, her hand visibly shaking. She picked the envelope up, brushed off the dust that coated it, and examined it. There was nothing on the envelope but the characters of her name. She slipped it into her jacket pocket and stood upright.

She felt the first tears fall, but made no move to stop them.

"Why?" she asked the cold stone. "Why couldn't you just have loved me?" Her head bowed as she cried, not caring whether the bodyguards heard or not. "You were my parents, damn you! You were supposed to love me no matter what." Thoughts whizzed through her mind, declarations of hate and protestations of love - all true, all irrelevant, all pointless. She stood there and sobbed into the cold wind, letting it dry the tears on her face. Words tumbled from her mind to her lips, angry words, harsh words, words that she had never even allowed herself to say out loud to herself.

"Well, at least you had two "normal" children," she spat at the stone, "I hope they loved you enough to make you happy."

She stood there until the bitterness passed, and the sadness, the loneliness welled up - and the fear. She told her parents, for the first time, how scared she had been, how vulnerable, when they had thrown her out. How close to living on the street she had come - and how blind luck had saved her. She told them about Mariko, who left town after she graduated, coming to Tokyo to pursue some career - any career, and how they had been tearfully reunited.

For a long time Yuriko spoke her heart to her parents, saying everything she had come to say, until the only thing left was a sincere wish that they were happy, wherever they were. This thought rang through her skull like a bell, a signal that it was time to leave.

Brushing away the final tears, Yuriko bowed once to the stone marker. "Goodbye," she said with finality. She would never return again, but she had said what she had to say. Now she would go home, to her friends, her family, the people that loved her. Go home - what a wonderful thought. She turned away without glancing back and headed towards the gate.

She was halfway to the front gate when the security man and woman caught up with her. Solicitously, the man held the gate open for her, and she smiled at him in thanks. She, in turn held it open for the woman. Yuriko noted the woman's full lips, and high cheekbones and smiled at her, a slightly broader, more open smile.


In the car, Yuriko thanked the bodyguards, apologizing for dragging them so far out of town. They introduced themselves again, as she had completely missed their names the first time around. Yuriko felt lighter, almost happy, and she was ready to leave this behind her.

Sairi, the woman, seemed to have a natural empathy - Yuriko was sure she was being comforted on the flight home. Ginta, the male guard, was pleasant, but distant, preferring to remain apart from the two women. Yuriko found herself talking to Sairi, about her parents, the circumstances of their death and her discovery of it. At some point Sairi had removed her sunglasses. Yuriko could see the large brown eyes fill with concern - and that desire to nurture that so often takes over women when confronted with a lost soul.

When they landed, Yuriko shook hands with her companions. Sairi, hanging back looked pointedly at her watch. "As of now," she commented lightly, "you're no longer my client. Any chance that you might be again?"

Yuriko grinned at the woman. "Not a chance. This was a fluke." Sairi's smile began to slip and Yuriko cut in, "But maybe, since I'm no longer you're client, you can find time to meet me for a late lunch?"

Sairi glanced at Ginta, who merely shrugged. "Give me five minutes to make my report." And she joined him for a short consultation. They walked away into the airport, leaving Yuriko by the hired car that would take her back into town. When the woman returned, Yuriko noted three things: the sunglasses were gone, as was the gun she had obviously worn, and that Sairi looked very nice in that shade of lipstick. Yuriko greeted her with a smile and helped the woman into the car.