Shoujoai ni Bouken: Adventures of Yuriko

The Story So Far: Yuriko is facing up to the harsh realities of her situation, and not at all happy about it. Midori is providing much-needed support. Desperate times call for desperate measures.


Volume 5, Issue 2

"Scrouge"


The day was overcast and cold. The two women walked through a park, empty of all life but themselves. Even birds declined to forage for food in the chill air.

They walked along a small footpath, littered with windblown leaves, which skittered dryly ahead of and around them. They reached a bridge over a small river; Yuriko stopped and looked down at the black water. It moved sluggishly under the thin skin of ice that had formed on its  surface. Yuriko leaned against the railing and watched the water flow by in silence.

"Would you say that you're an idealist?" Midori asked suddenly. Her voice was light, almost happy, and it pulled Yuriko out of the brooding that threatened to overtake her.

"I guess so," she admitted. "Mariko says I want everyone around me to be happy and the times I get hurt the worst are when someone stubbornly refuses to be happy in my presence."

"Mariko-san is a smart lady," Midori said.

"She's my conscience," Yuriko agreed. She smiled fondly. "She's a Virgo you know - she knows what your problem is, and doesn't hesitate to tell you - frequently. And she's the most honest person I've ever met."

"She's a good friend."

"The best."

The two women watched the water flow by. Midori walked away for a moment, then returned with two sticks. She handed one to Yuriko with a smile. "Race?"

Yuri reached out and took the stick, grinning. "Why not?"

They found a small current where the water ran clear of the ice and on the count of three tossed their sticks into the stream. Without waiting to watch them disappear, they both crossed to the other side of the bridge and watch for their reappearance.

A few seconds passed. Midori was the first to spot the two sticks, which floated, locked together, down the stream and out of sight. Yuriko looked at Midori and nodded.

"A tie works for me."

"Me too," Midori said, chafing her hands together. "Let's get some tea to celebrate."

"My treat."

The teashop was warm. Steam flowed from the kettle, and from the entrance. The window was blurry with condensed water. Yuriko ordered tea and snacks for them both and carried them over to the wobbly table where Midori sat. They helped themselves and sat back in complete harmony with the universe - for the moment.

"There's something I have to do," Yuriko said suddenly, "something that may be unpleasant."

"Are you asking me to leave?" Midori's lips tightened a little.

"No - I'm asking you to come with me. I don't really have the right to, but," Yuriko took a deep breath, "I'm not sure I can do this without you being there."

***

It was hard to find a taxi. They had walked several blocks, ending up in front of a hotel, before they could find one that was free. When they were seated at last, Yuriko asked the driver to turn the heat up and put her coat over Midori's slim shoulders. The writer thanked her as she shivered in the extra layer.

"Where exactly are we going?" Midori asked.

Yuriko pulled a worn-looking business card out of her pocket and handed it over. Midori took it.

"'Motoslave?'" she said incredulously. "Isn't that from some anime or other?"

"I think it's supposed to be a joke." Yuriko suggested. "That's the kind of sense of humor he has."

"Who is he?" Midori asked. "Tsuchiya Takeshi," she read from the card.

Yuriko closed her eyes and leaned her head on the seat back. "My older brother."

"Oh dear," Midori said. "That sounds ominous."

Yuriko laughed as she looked over at the writer. "Have I told you how delightful your perspective on things is?"

"No - do tell." Midori laughed.

It was no more than a few moments before the taxi pulled up in front of a drab office building. It had no marking on the outside and looked very much like the other buildings near it. Yuriko checked the address, paid the cab driver and stood on the curb looking at the forbidding blandness of the nearly windowless fašade.

"Are you sure you want to do this right now?" Midori asked casually. "No one would blame you if you waited until this all blew over."

"No," Yuriko tugged the hair that hung in front of her face. "Now's the right time. I could always talk with Takeshi...and right now I need some people I can talk to," she smiled a little sadly down at Midori. "Will I become annoying if I thank you again?"

"I'll let you know when it bothers me."

The receptionist looked like a typical specimen of her kind. She simpered at Yuriko, welcoming them and asking what she could do for them.

Yuriko held out the business card. "Is Tsuchiya-san in today?"

The receptionist pursed her lips in mild disapproval. "Tsuchiya- sensei should be in his office. Let me call." A few soft words and she pointed them to the elevator and told them which floor they needed.

They were met at the elevator by a young woman who introduced herself as Fukui Akiko. She led them through a maze of cubicles, laboratories and unmarked rooms. Midori and Yuriko had no idea where they were in the building by the time they stopped in front of yet another unmarked door.

"Who may I say is asking after Tsuchiya-sensei?" Fukui asked.

"You can tell him that his sister is here to see him." Yuriko said carefully.

Fukui bowed and left them. A few moments later the door to the lab opened and a tall form slouched out, pulling off goggles and replacing them with glasses.

"Fumie -what brings you he..." he looked at the two women, clearly at a loss. His eyes glossed over Midori, and moved to Yuriko's face.

"Yuriko?" he said at last.

"Hello, Takeshi." Yuriko responded slowly.

For a long moment the two siblings stared at each other. Then a huge grin broke out on Takeshi's face. He reached out, grabbed Yuriko by the wrist and dragged her towards the door. "I'm glad you're here! Have I got something to show you! We made a real breakthrough today!"

Midori followed the two as they passed through the door into one of the most chaotic rooms she'd ever seen. One look at the confusion on Yuriko's face was enough to set Midori giggling madly.

Continued