Shoujoai ni Bouken: Adventures of Yuriko

The Story So Far: Yuriko is facing her second day enrolled as a  senior at Mitsukawa High for a new "reality" TV program. On her first  day, she confronted school bullies, made some new friends and was mercilessly teased by her best friend in the whole world. The second  day now draws to an end...


Volume 1, Issue 6

"Love and Hate on the Court"


One of the nice things about school, Yuriko thought, as she walked  towards the lockers, was the end of the day. It was like you've  actually accomplished something, having made it through one more day  filled with random commands and strange requests (if you looked at  them from a bigger perspective)…. She stopped in her tracks.

Approaching her locker slowly, she could make out what appeared to be  an envelope sticking out from one of the ventilation slits. How odd.

She pulled at the envelope and was not terribly surprised to find that  it was a love letter. She wondered why the sender hadn't shoved it all  the way through the slot, and smiled when she guessed it was due to  extreme nervousness. That was understandable, after all. She lifted  the note to her nose and gently sniffed. There was no scent. Probably  a boy's then. Smiling, she tucked it under her arm and lifted the locker door.

Her smile faded as tens, no, dozens of little envelopes in every size,  shape and color, cascaded out of her shoe locker, past her flailing  hands and landed in scattered piles on the floor around her feet. She  stared down in disbelief at the paper that now littered the floor,  while a few stragglers slithered their way out of the locker to join their brethren. Looking up, Yuriko heard a noise to her left and she  turned to see today's cameraman moving in for a close-up. She gave a  wan smile and waved, then let the locker door drop, and softly banged  her forehead against it.

***

When Yuriko at last entered the gym, she found it already crowded with girls in uniform. Squeaking from sneakers on waxed floors, shouts and  the coach calling out commands filled the air. Girls' voices cheered, cajoled and shrieked at each turn of the game in progress. Yuriko was  content to stand in the back and watch the action.

It was almost immediately apparent that the powerhouse of the team was  a long-limbed girl, whose long black hair was pulled into a tight  ponytail. Her presence on the court was electrifying. She moved with a  grace that was unusual for a teenager…and her commands to her team radiated assurance. Yuriko nodded approvingly. This would be the team Captain.

Matsumori-sensei blew her whistle and called a short break. Both sides  turned towards the benches, grabbing for waterbottles and towels. The coach waved the dark-haired girl over and started towards Yuriko.

The girl's ponytail bounced behind her as she jogged over. "Yes, Coach?" Her voice was clipped, precise.

Matsumori-sensei gestured towards the blonde and made introductions. Yuriko offered her hand and bowed, stated her name and class and watched for the reaction. The girl's nostrils flared slightly at her name, but no other change came over her face.

"I'm Kaori. Yamamoto Kaori. Nice to meet you." The clipped voice was ambiguous - Yuriko couldn't be sure whether the girl was pleased or not.

The coach was already speaking. "She's here for a while and I thought, with her height, she'd be a good addition to the team. I'd like you to watch her play, and we can talk about where she might be useful."

"Uh," Yuriko interrupted, "I can't play in games, you know that, right? I'm not technically eligible." She shrugged. "But I'll be glad  to help out in practice." She could see Kaori watching her closely and  felt oddly uncomfortable under the girl's stare.

"Let's take it one step at a time, shall we?" Matsumori-sensei asked. "You feel up to a little one on one?" she handed a ball to Yuriko, who nodded, a little unsure of herself.

Smiling at Kaori, she said, "I'm not all that good..."

Kaori turned away as she spoke, "I'll be the judge of that."

Yuriko's eyebrows lifted, then lowered. Niiiiiccce.... She headed onto  the floor, bouncing the ball lightly, getting a feel for it.

Kaori stood, her body ready, uncommitted. Yuriko passed the ball to her, and Kaori shot it back, hard. Yuriko received the ball and broke around to the right; Kaori was there in an instant, covering her, blocking her way to the basket. Yuriko tried to fake a shot, but Kaori read her intentions and almost took the ball away. Yuriko broke again and after a few steps, crashed shoulder to chest with Kaori. The girl didn't flinch, but proceeded to get right in Yuriko's face. The blonde set her jaw and decided to let the slight height difference work. She leapt and shot, her hands just above the limit of Kaori's reach...but the ball rebounded from the hoop, and Kaori was there to take it.

The next few minutes were the toughest workout of Yuriko's life. Kaori had great intuition, good skill and was, Yuri was annoyed to note, in much better shape than herself. When the coach at last blew the whistle, Yuriko practically sank into the floor with relief and exhaustion. Kaori took one more leisurely shot, sank the basket and turned away without a word. Yuriko accepted a towel gratefully from one girl and a waterbottle from another, but never took her eyes off the team captain.

The coach was at her elbow, grinning. "Not bad for your first day."

Yuriko returned the grin. "Not good, either. I'm out of shape - the celebrity life has made me soft." She gestured with her chin towards Kaori, who stood in the center of a ring of girls, talking with one or two of them. "She doesn't like me."

Shaking her head, Matsumori-sensei said, "Not much. Thinks you're a distraction. But I think you've got real potential." She looked over  at her star forward. "She'll come around when she sees that you're sincere."

Yuriko flushed and lowered her voice. "But…she's right. I'm only doing this because I have to." Seeing the disappointed look on the coach's face, she backtracked. "I mean, I'll do my best, but I won't be here for long."

Matsumori-sensei looked thoughtful. "I'll talk to Kaori-kun..."

Yuriko interrupted. "No - I'll take care of it myself." She smiled reassuringly. "I'm good at that kind of thing."

The coach looked at Yuriko with a worried expression, then her face softened. "Okay, but if you need me to, I will." She turned back to the girls and separated them into two drill squads.

Yuriko found herself on a squad with ten teammates. She turned her mind to trying to keep up with the other girls, but had the constant,  irritating sensation that she was being watched. At last she broke from her formation and shot a look towards the other side of the gym. There stood Kaori, her eyes burning darkly, staring directly at Yuriko. The team captain caught her eye, then slowly and deliberately,  turned away.

Yuriko sighed, but her attention was drawn away again by one of the  girls, who was explaining the next drill.

The afternoon passed slowly.


***

"Why are you torturing yourself?" Mari's voice was even gigglier over the phone than usual. Yuriko made a face at the phone tucked between shoulder and cheek. "You have an agency for that kind of thing."

"Because these kids took time to write me these notes..."

"Love letters." Mari interrupted, smirking audibly.

"Yes, love letters," Yuriko snapped. "And I feel like I should at least *read* them."

"What are you going to do about them? You can't very well respond to  them all. You don't even know who half these people are."

Yuriko slit another one open and pulled out the neatly folded note.  She read out loud, "'Yuriko-sama, I think you are the most wonderful  singer and very beautiful in the girl's uniform. I love you very  much.' No signature."

Mari's laughter was loud and Yuriko took the moment to lay the letter in the "unsigned" pile. The next one was obviously from a boy. The  paper was dark, but had a small embossed English "R" in one corner. She read again, "'Yuriko-san, I'm sure you will receive many letters  from many students, but I hope that mine is special. I have never  heard you sing, although other students tell me that you are good. I  haven't seen any of your acting, either. I am sorry about that,  because I think you are very good-looking.'" Yuriko ignored the acerbic comment that came from the phone. "'I wanted to write you and say that I am glad you have come to our school and I hope that one day we will meet and be friends. Yours, Ryo.'"

"Well, that was different at least," Mari said, her voice faint.

"Stop doing that." Yuriko commented.

"What?" Mariko said, her voice clear once again.

"Kissing Hachi when you're on the phone. You can get off any time, you know." Yuriko opened another letter, scanned it and set it on the  "signed with initials" pile.

"Oh, you!" Mariko said accusingly, then laughed. "And so I shall. Will we see you Saturday night?"

"Eight o'clock at Chuugoku." Yuriko stuck another unsigned note on the appropriate pile.

"See you then!" Mariko said and hung up the phone.

"I can't wait." Yuriko spoke to the dead air. "You have no idea." She took the phone from under her chin and closed it up, then slit open  another letter.

 

Continued