Saiyuu no Ryokou: The Continuing Adventures of Yuriko

The Story So Far: Yuriko's had a long night – she's become addicted to the Internet. Today she starts training for the tour in earnest and it hasn't gotten off to a good start.


Volume 1, Issue 12

"Walking the Walk"


The music ceased and Yuriko forced herself to remain standing. Leaning heavily on her thighs, she could feel sweat running down her back. She wondered briefly what had happened to the promise she had made to stay in shape after leaving Mitsukawa High's basketball team.

She limped over to a chair, and grabbed up her towel. Wiping her face and neck, she stood and stretched a little, trying not to catch the choreographer's eye. Madame was not in a good mood and she wasn't even trying to hide it. A slight motion by her side made Yuriko look up.

Mayumi was sitting quietly, studying one hand, a bottle of water in the other. Yuriko watched the other woman openly, trying to decide if it was worth it to say something. She was about to turn away, when Mayumi's voice cut through her thoughts.

"You are a decent dancer." The sentence was just this side of rude, but Yuriko took that as a good sign.

"Thank you, so are you." Yuriko didn't feel much like playing nice with this woman, but as absurd as this was, it was the longest conversation they had had since they'd met. At least she didn't have to lie – Mayumi was a surprisingly decent dancer. Given the other woman's attitude, Yuriko had just assumed she'd be as stiff and inflexible physically as she was mentally. "I was pleased to hear that we'd be dancing together for some of the numbers." When she lied, at least she lied glibly.

Mayumi took one more long look at her nails, then smiled coldly up at Yuriko. "I argued against it, but since I was overruled, then I'll have to trust you to make me look good. Please don't make any mistakes."

Yuriko boggled at the other woman. Was her ego really that immense? "I'll try not to," she said, her voice heavy with irony.

"I expect no less from a professional," Mayumi said with what appeared to be a complete lack of guile. She stood, took a delicate sip from her bottle and pointed with manicured nail. Yuriko looked over to where Madam Sophia stood glaring. She gestured for Mayumi to precede her onto the practice floor. Yuriko's lips parted in a slight smile as an evil thought crossed her mind. Mayumi wouldn't be the first homophobe she'd ever met – but she'd be the first she'd ever danced with. It was all Yuriko could do not to laugh out loud as pleasantly evil ideas crossed her mind.

***

"One, then left, then one, then right," Madam Sophia's voice commanded tartly. "You, little girl," she stamped her stick onto the ground, "you are behind, please stay with the beat. One, then left, then one then right, and turn please, big girl, to the left, yes, like that." Madame made a short gesture and the music stopped. Mayumi and Yuriko stopped where they were and panted, each too out of breath to speak.

"You are both soft," Madame said, a cruel smile on her lips. "But I will make you hard. Today we do only basics...you understand? Basics," she repeated slowly in her accented Japanese, as if they were the foreigners. "These patterns will repeat through your dances, you see?"

Yuriko nodded, not really seeing at all, but too tired to ask questions. She glanced at the clock and groaned internally. More than a half hour to go. The rap of Madame's stick drew her attention.

"Big girl, you watch. Little girl, you start like this," Madame gestured and Mayumi did her best to approximate the position. Madame scowled and slapped her stick in annoyance. She corrected the diminutive singer with a few words and nodded for the music to begin. To Yuriko's surprise, Madame set aside her stick and took Mayumi in her arms. In a moment the two were spinning quickly and gracefully around the room. Once, twice and on the third time around, Madame spun them into a stylish finish. The music ended with a flourish and Yuriko found herself clapping before she could stop herself.

Madam Sophia turned to face her, her wrinkled face flushed with the effort of dancing. "You see?" she barked in annoyance. "This is what you need to learn. Now," she lifted her stick from the ground and turned back to the exhausted idols, "we go back to basics."

Yuriko's groan was just slightly more audible than Mayumi's.

***

Amba didn't look up when Yuriko entered, but Chiyako was there to welcome her and escort her around the piles, mannequins, and other accouterments of the trade.

Yuriko stopped in front of dresser's dummy and fingered the material draped over it. "Whoa nice..." she purred, letting the back of her hand slide across the silk.

"Glad you like it," Amba spoke without removing her attention from the sewing machine in front of her, "you'll be wearing it soon enough." She made a face and gestured with her shoulders. "Chi, get the suits, please, love, if you'd be so kind." She spared Yuriko the shortest glance. "Hang about – I'm almost done here."

"Okay." Yuriko returned her hand to the blouse on the mannequin. "Mine huh?" she said softly. "I like it."

"I thought you might," Amba said, her smile obvious in her voice. "You strike me as a silk kind of person."

"You're good," Yuriko laughed, remembering an interview question from what seemed like a lifetime ago. "What color is this, anyway?"

Amba finished what she was doing, stopped the sewing machine and looked up. "A28EA1," she answered with a straight face, as she snapped a thread with her teeth.

Chiyako chose that moment to rescue the singer. "It's like a mauve, I guess you'd say," the Japanese woman shot a good-natured glare at her superior. "Don't let Amba confuse you. She likes to twist the people she clothes."

"She's welcome to, as long as the twists remain mental and not sartorial," Yuriko reached out to take a few of the outfits with which Chiyako was burdened.

"Try this on first," the costumer's assistant said brightly, holding out a jacket. "We'll be making a few of these, so we should probably have this finished first. Then this one," she pulled a pair of slacks and a matching jacket from the pile, "and this," she held up a dark blue dress. Shaking her head, she laughed. "I can't imagine you in this and these," she said apologetically, gesturing at the dress.

Yuriko smiled gently at the girl, who colored slightly. "I'm sure you've seen makeup turn a beautiful woman into a horrible monster, right? Just think of it like that," she laughed. She grabbed the tuxedo up and dragged it to the changing area.

Tux, then suit, then dress, then another dress, then a host of blouses, shirts, pants and other patterns – the next hour was a blur of dressing and undressing, standing, sitting and posing in an endless variety of postures. At last Amba pronounced her done and Yuri heaved a sigh.

"What a day!" she said to no one in particular. She tucked her blouse into her pants and stretched to loosen it up again. "Hey," she stopped and turned, pointing to the mauve confection, "what about that one?"

Amba pinned the idol with a dark glance, as a slow, evil smile crossed her face. "Oh no," the Indian woman said, "I'm saving that one as a surprise."

Yuriko's smile wavered under the force of that grin and she turned to Chiyako for comfort. The Japanese woman's face was blank as she busied herself with something on the opposite side of the little room.

Feigning unconcern, Yuriko gave her most eloquent shrug and pointing her nose in the air, she gestured with faux nonchalance. "Fine, fine, see if I care!"

As she sashayed out the door, she could hear Chiyako's laughter, so she dragged a hand melodramatically behind her to gesture her final farewell as the door closed.

Continued