Shoujoai ni Bouken: Adventures of Yuriko

The Story So Far: The night of "the big dance" has finally arrived, and Yuriko is in rare form. She's ready to cut a rug or two, then pack it all in for a while.

Volume 5, Issue 15

"Night Air"

Yuriko mentally thanked Kishi-san a thousand times in the next hour or two. Her agent had been brutal the first few months of their relationship, demanding exacting standards for politeness in social situations. It was so ingrained, Yuriko could put on "the smile" and chat with all but the most boring or offensive of companions. It wasn't that the faculty and student body of Mitsukawa were unusually boring - it was just that there were so *many* of them.

Yuriko smiled and shook her thousandth hand for the evening. The literature teacher in front of her beamed as she introduced her husband. Yuriko nodded and introduced Midori, using the author's nom de plume. The teacher's eyes tightened slightly when confronted with one of the country's most prominent authors on the arm of a notorious idol. Yuriko smiled graciously, but in her head she was grinning evilly.

When the couple had left them, Midori shook her head, but the smile never left her lips. "That wasn't very nice."

Yuriko grinned down at her lover. "If I've learned anything as an idol, it's that you make your own fun." She looked up and gave a little wave. Mikan and Emi were approaching the two women with happy smiles.

Mikan looked rather dashing in a silk outfit, while Emi had her long straight hair up in a delicate coif that highlighted her dress.

Yuriko greeted them and was asking how the bento sales had gone when she cut off in midsentence. "I…uh, I just realized. Oh, duh. You two are a couple, aren't you?"

Mikan laughed heartily. "We were wondering when you'd notice."

"I'm batting zero today." Yuriko shrugged. "Apparently I don't notice anything past my own nose."

"It's not like we walk around screaming about it," Emi said quietly. "We don't want to make a fuss."

"No," Yuriko said quickly, "no of course not."

"And after all," Mikan said with an evil grin, "you've been in high school these past few months - you're *supposed* to be self-absorbed."

Having recovered her equilibrium, Yuriko shot the girls a broad grin and managed to congratulate them as they reported the wild success of their food booth.

The four women chatted pleasantly, as the crowd grew in anticipation of the play that was to lead of the evening's festivities. Eventually Emi and Mikan took their leave to find seats. Mariko joined them, and said that Hachi was holding seats for them all.

"Where's Sayaka?" Midori asked, looking around for the girl.

"She's gone off to be with her Prince,"  Mariko answered. "Apparently he's got stage fright."

"Do you think I should…?" Yuriko began, then noticed the look on both women's faces. "I guess not, huh?"

Midori smiled up at the idol. "Do you ever stop trying to fix things?"

"Probably not. Hang around a little while and you can tell me." She grinned. "May I at least go outside for a little fresh air?"

Midori stepped back, pursing her lips critically, "I think you've earned that, at least." She gave Yuriko a playful shove. Mariko-san and I will go find Hachigoro-san. Don't be too long."

"I won't." Yuriko promised. "I just want some fresh air." She caught the look that Mariko shot her and threw up her hands in protest. "Really, that's it!" Laughing, she turned towards the entrance.

Her long strides had her out of the auditorium and down the hall in a few moments. The cold air poured in through open doors, and Yuriko took a deep breath. She stepped outside, her hands buried in her pockets, nodded to a few teachers who stood outside smoking and began to wander along the path in front of the school.

She could make out a few indistinct shapes and hear the occasional murmur from the shadows. She laughed to herself, imaging what Mari would say if she reported who was with whom. Yuriko turned away from the wooded area and walked down towards the school entrance. As she reached the end of the path where it widened to pass through the gates she could see two students, both laughing and smiling happily at each other, standing just inside the arch of the gate itself. Yuriko stopped where she stood, as Aya's and Jun's eyes met and heart-breakingly happy smiles covered their faces. Yuriko turned away quietly, hoping like hell she hadn't been seen, and tried to swallow down the sudden lump in her throat. She headed back towards the school at a trot.

She had just about reached the doors, when a deep, gravelly voice wished her a good evening. She turned to see Sawako-sensei stubbing out a cigarette and exhaling smoke. She bowed, glad to be able to have a final word with the teacher. Yuriko opened her mouth to speak when Sawako-sensei did something unexpected.

"May I have the pleasure of a dance tonight?" the teacher asked calmly.

Yuriko stared at him, gaping in surprise.

"Yes," Sawako-sensei said evenly, his eyes crinkling up a little around the corners. "I'm perfectly aware that you are in drag tonight. I think my reputation can handle that."

Yuriko sputtered for a moment, as she tried to find a way to answer politely, but the teacher once again derailed her.

"I know that you believe," Sawako-sensei spoke quietly, "that I have some personal animosity towards you. That is not true." He sighed quietly, as if to himself. "I will admit that I felt your presence in the school was a distraction - and I think I have been proven correct about that," his dark eyes bore into Yuriko's, "but I underestimated you, and for that, I apologize." His bow was deep and prolonged.

Yuriko was speechless. "I…I uh, don't know what to say to that. You don't have to apologize…"

"But I do," Sawako-sensei insisted. He looked around, noting that they were alone briefly. "Do you have a moment? I want to tell you a story."

When Yuriko nodded, the teacher escorted her to one of the tables in the schoolyard. He paced a little as he spoke.

"Many years ago, there was a girl in my class who was brilliant - simply brilliant. She was not only my star pupil, but also a delightful, happy girl that brought light into any room she entered. I was a harsh master to her, because in her I saw a mind the likes of which I had never before seen in this school.

"One day she was absent from class. That in itself was not unusual, but when she returned the day after, she was greatly changed. She was morose, withdrawn. She kept up on her schoolwork, but that spark of life had been rudely taken away from her. I know that it was unprofessional to do so, but I worried about her. I…allowed my personal attachment to this student to take precedence over my responsibility to her.

"Weeks passed and she grew more distant. Ultimately her grades began to drop. I asked her to stay late one day, hoping that we might talk, in confidence of course, that she might confide in me the source of her

Sawako-sensei turned away, his body stiff and proper as usual. He cleared his throat. When he spoke again, his voice was low and angry.

"I assumed that the problem was a boy. As a high school teacher, I have seen many a good mind subsumed for what is referred to as 'love.' But this girl - I underestimated her as well."

Sawako-sensei turned around briskly and faced Yuriko. "To answer your unspoken question - yes, I am married." A small, tight smile flitted across his lips. "I am not completely emotionless, as many of my students believe." His face became serious once again and he took up his tale where he had left off.

"This student, this charming girl who had, if I'm being honest, captured my heart, came late to my classroom. I offered to help her if she was not well, of if she needed an impartial ear. She shook her head and said nothing, so I did not press her." He looked up at the night sky, as if searching for something in the stars. "I believe I failed her when I did not press for an explanation.

"She left the classroom and I stood there gathering my things, preparing to leave when I heard a sound like a large object hitting the wall. I ran out into the hall and found her unconscious in the hallway. She was bleeding heavily from…" he swallowed and bit his words off sharply as he spoke. "From a spontaneous miscarriage."

Sawako-sensei's face was tight and his words bitter. "The day of her absence she…she had been raped." He paused, breathing heavily. Yuriko could see that his hands were clenched. "And I was not able to help her."

Silence lay between them. Yuriko watched as the teacher regained his control, then at last finished his tale. "I went to the hospital with her and stayed for three days while she fought against odds to live. And she did live. But the shining girl I had known and taught never returned to school. Those animals killed her."

Yuriko felt something tickle her cheek and brushed it away, pretending that she didn't notice it was a tear. She watched the teacher stand there stiffly, and she couldn't stop herself from asking, "Why? Why are you
telling me this?"

Sawako-sensei turned to the idol, surprised that he was not alone in the night. "Why? Because the rumors at the school said that I had beaten the poor child, of course. Because I am clearly an unfeeling monster." He watched Yuriko's face intently. "As are you."

Yuriko nodded slowly. "I understand." She stood, not speaking for a moment. Then she turned to the teacher and asked, "You knew, didn't you? That I was innocent."

Sawako-sensei smiled, a wry, bitter, knowing smile. "I knew." He turned towards the school and looked at his watch. "The play's about to begin…shall we?"

Yuriko looked at the school, then the sky, then smiled at the teacher. "Yes, let's." She took a step and stopped. "And yes - it would be my pleasure."

Sawako-sensei gave a stiff little bow, and the two walked into the school together.