Shoujoai ni Bouken: Adventures of Yuriko

The Story So Far: It seems as if the storm about Yuriko and Ruriko-sensei has passed. Yuriko has received support from unexpected sources.

Volume 3, Issue 19

"The Longest Day"


Closing the door to the office behind her, Yuriko bowed deeply. "I cannot thank you enough," she began.

Kaori interrupted her. "It was nothing less than the truth. You have nothing to thank us for." As always, her voice was nearly expressionless, but some intense emotion burned in her dark eyes.

Yuriko bowed again. "Nonetheless, I do thank you. All of you."

Mikan, smiling broadly, said, "Hey - you're one of us now."

And we protect our own, Yuriko could see the subtext shining in the faces of the girls looking at her. She smiled in thanks, and removed herself down the hall, feeling vaguely disturbed by the whole thing. Of course she *had* behaved, well, like a gentleman, with all of them - for her there simply wasn't another option. But would they have done the same thing if she hadn't? Yuriko wasn't sure she wanted to know the answer to that question. How odd that the very thing she had always rebelled against - being part of a crowd - had now come to her rescue.

She met Taro in the hallway and they exchanged a few words. He'd spoken with the teachers concerning the school's official position - as well as instructing them on how to handle any media invasions. Yuriko thanked him profusely. The young man explained that he would return to the agency and follow up with Kishi.

"I spoke to her just a moment ago - she wants to know if the school is considering a suit for defamation."

Yuriko looked thoughtful. "I don't think that's a good idea..." she explained how the team had come forward with their testimonials.

Now Taro looked thoughtful. "I think we can use the solidarity angle to make the papers look stupid. Now all we need is a paternity suit, or scandalous video and we're off page one."

Yuriko laughed - it the first time all day, and it felt wonderful. "That's the first time I've ever heard that as a good thing. Especially from a publicity man."

Taro grinned. "Next time you get involved in a muckraking scandal - let us know in advance, okay?" he winked.

Yuriko thanked him again and they parted. As she approached the classroom, she ran down her mental list of people to talk to. This evening was likely to be spent making a whole lot of phone calls.

She ran her hand through her hair, took a deep breath and slid the door to the classroom aside. The teacher paused and looked up, as did every student in the class. Yuriko pasted a tired smile on her face and made a "V" sign. The release of the collectively held breath was audible.

And then the questions came.

Yuriko declined to comment, as she made her way to her seat. The looks that Aya and Sayaka gave her were pleading, concerned and confused. She gave them both a wink and seated herself, apologizing to the teacher for the interruption. With some surprise, Yuriko noted that this was Japanese class - the last period of the day. She sighed and tried her best to concentrate, but it was nearly impossible.

***

Class ended, and so did the school day. Yuriko debated whether to attend basketball practice, but when two of the seniors came to escort her to the gym, she decided that she'd better at least make an appearance. She bid Sayaka and Aya a good evening and stood to go.

"Wait!" Sayaka said. "What happened? Please tell us what's going on? There are rumors going around..."

"And they are all untrue," Yuriko said. She had the uncomfortable feeling of being watched from behind her back. Turning, she could see that the entire class had stopped and was waiting to hear what she had to say. She spoke loud enough for everyone to hear. "The tabloid press got a hold of a picture of myself and Ruriko-sensei coming out of, well, of a gay bar." There was little noise at this, so Yuriko assumed they had at least heard this part. "That much is right - we were there dancing. But everything else in the articles is fabricated." She smiled. "You know Ruriko-sensei has a boyfriend...he's even been to some of the basketball games. She wanted to practice dancing so she could impress him...well, anyway, we're not a couple, and anything else you read in a trash paper is just that - trash."

Sayaka looked profoundly relieved, but Aya still wasn't convinced. "But we heard the Ruriko-sensei was suspended..."

"That too, is not true." Yuriko was so glad to be able to say that, she practically burst. "The Principal will be meeting with the Board of Governors this evening, but my guess is, tomorrow's papers will have a teeny-tiny retraction on the bottom of the 30th page, and by the weekend this will all blow over."

"Thank the gods," the not-at-all-religious Aya said sincerely.

"And the agency's PR man," Yuriko joked. She could feel the tension in the room lighten up, as the students went back to their activities. She made ready to leave, but felt a tug on her pants. Sayaka stood and leaned close. In a quick whisper she said, "Be careful - not everyone here is your friend."

Yuriko shot her a questioning look.

Sayaka shook her head. "Not here."

Yuriko waved to the girls from the team and told them she'd be there in a few moments. When they left, Yuriko waited for Sayaka, asking her if she'd walk with her to the gym.

The girl waited until they were merely two more in the crowd before she spoke. Rapidly and softly she said, "I think it was a student that tipped the newspapers off to you."

"How do you know?" Yuriko asked.

Sayaka gave the tiniest of shakes to her head. "I can't say here. But I think..." Just then, they reached the gymnasium and Sayaka turned away. "Just be careful-Yuriko-kun. I think someone wants to hurt you." She scurried away, leaving Yuriko with the sensation of having walked into a plot from a television drama. She only wished it weren't for real.

***

When Yuriko entered the locker room, she was greeted by a round of enthusiastic applause and cheers. Whatever concerns she had were washed away in a tide of comradeship, by the extremely enthusiastic congratulations of the basketball team.

Yuriko was still uncomfortable about the whole situation, until Emi said, "Thanks to you I won the betting pool!"

Yuriko stared at her. "The betting pool?"

Several of the girls laughed. Emi grinned. "Yeah the 'cutest couples' pool. It's an old team tradition!"

At Yuriko's blank look one of the other girls elaborated. "Every year at the beginning of the season, we write up a pool of cute couples on the basketball squad - the first one to have a rumor circulated about them is the winner." Everyone chuckled at this.

"You mean..." Yuriko began slowly, "you all thought Ruriko-sensei and I made a cute couple?"

"Oh, heck yeah!" Mikan laughed. "Practically perfect - except that Ruriko-sensei's straight and all."

Yuriko shook her head, trying to clear it. She felt light-headed. "Ok, so who was the runner up?"

Mikan leaned forward and nodded confidentially, "Kaori-buchou and Miki-chan." One of the younger girls squealed with embarrassment, her face flaming.

"Mikan-sempai! You're so mean!" she whined as everyone laughed.

A noise of a door opening was heard, and two voices. Ruriko-sensei and Kaori-buchou entered together, to the renewed exultations of the team.

Mikan pulled on Yuriko's arm to get her attention. Gesturing with her chin towards the coach and the team captain, she grinned. "There's your competition. Last year they won, hands down."

Yuriko's eyebrows practically launched themselves into her hairline. "Do they know?"

"Probably, but they pretend not to. That's an old team tradition, too."

Yuriko couldn't control it another second. She'd completely forgotten about the self-contained hedonism of high school students. A 'cutest couples' betting pool! Of course! She began to laugh until tears were squeezed from her eyes and her ribs hurt.

Mikan wandered away politely, allowing the blonde to have her catharsis, while the rest of the team spilled out of the locker room into the gym.

Yuriko let her laughter linger, chuckling from time to time, while she sat in the locker room listening to the sounds of basketball practice in the distance. It felt oddly comforting.

At last, sighing, she levered herself up, and stretched. Seventy five days be damned - tomorrow this was old news. She walked out onto the gymnasium floor, smiling.

Continued