Saiyuu no Ryokou: The Continuing Adventures of Yuriko

The Story So Far: With a week to go before serious practice begins, Yuriko and Midori have decided on a vacation together. They'll be spending time with Midori's family. Not surprisingly, Yuriko's nervous, but surprisingly, Midori is far more worried than she.


Volume 2, Issue 4



"Your mother?" Yuriko blurted out before she could stop herself. She immediately regretted it when she saw Midori blanch. "I thought," she amended quickly, "That when you said, 'doesn't look her age,' you meant she looked great for a 50-something year old. Not a..."

"I know, I know." Midori agreed impatiently. "You didn't expect someone who looks 18."

Yuriko shared a quick glance with her lover. "Am I being predictable? I'm sorry – I'll try not to be."

Midori gave the blonde a pained smile. "You won't have a choice. Just remember, nod a lot."

"Got it."

Midori parked the car behind a small, silver Toyota, and set the parking brake. Taking a deep breath to fortify herself, she got out of the car. Yuriko watched after her for a second - regretting not taking a moment alone back when they were out of sight of the house, to reinforce her affection – it was too late now. She angled her long legs out of the car and found herself in the middle of a whirlwind monologue.

"I was planning a large dinner for us all, you know, as a family reunion, but then Mishima called and you know that I can't refuse him anything, then I was called away to work on that art installation, so by the time I came back there wasn't any time to get started on dinner and Youko was going to help, but with the children, its so hard to keep them out of the way, and so I've decided that we should just all go out tonight and do Karaoke."

The speech ended so abruptly that Yuriko practically gasped for breath. She could clearly sense Midori's annoyance, so she remained silent, sending out reassuring "pillar of strength" waves. Aoi seemed to take their acquiescence to her plans for granted and not notice her daughter's mood. Before she could launch into the next utterance, Midori interrupted smoothly.

"Hello, Aoi. It's nice to see you too." The writer managed to sound amused, but shot Yuriko a look that she could not interpret. "Let me introduce you to Yuriko."

The idol found herself smiling automatically. "It's a great pleasure to meet you at last," she said, bowing deeply, after introductions had been made.

Aoi inclined her head perfunctorily, but with no rudeness at all. "We've heard a lot about you," she said, obviously sizing up the tall blonde. "Not much from Mi-chan, who never calls, but Sakura-chan is a big fan." Yuriko nodded pleasantly and glanced at the teenager in question. She was pleased to note that Sakura was well beyond the simpering stage. The girl shot her a welcoming smile.

"Me too!" The other girl, Misono, Yuriko remembered, stepped up to be introduced. "I've been a fan since your first album." She spoke forcefully, but her voice was quiet and breathy.

"Yes, of course," Aoi cut in, giving them no time for introductions. "So, anyway, as I was saying, we've heard a lot about you. Mi-chan," her attention shifted from Yuriko to her daughter with an unnerving intensity. Yuriko found that she was able to breathe more easily when not pinned by the older woman's slightly too-bright eyes. She began to understand why Midori was so uneasy around her mother - and she thought she could put a name to it.

While Midori fended off a barrage of questions she wasn't given time to answer, Yuriko had a long look at Aoi. The older woman looked, at closer range, a well-kept 40. That she was, in truth, slightly more than 20 years older than that was remarkable. But her figure was girlish and her energy remarkably, almost insultingly, youthful. The way she bounced on her toes as she talked gave the impression of someone younger even than Yuriko. Beside Midori's graceful and grave demeanor, Aoi looked positively childish.

"Won't you come inside?" Aoi was addressing Yuriko again, and the blonde found herself the object of scrutiny once more. Aoi smiled brightly and Yuriko relaxed. The woman may be manic, but at least she wasn't antagonistic. "It's really very good to meet you." The older woman leaned forward conspiratorially, forcing Yuriko to bend over to catch her words. "I can tell that you're making our Mi-chan happy – she's put on some weight."

Yuriko could see the flush cross Midori's cheeks – and so could Sakura and Misono. They practically leapt forward to take Aoi's hands.

"Come on, Aoi-'baasan," Sakura said quickly, rolling her eyes in Midori's direction, "let's go inside and tell Mama and Papa that these two are here." The two girls practically dragged the older woman into the house, with a smile for Midori and a wave for Yuriko.

A moment of silence passed, and Midori heaved a great sigh of release.

"So," she began. "That's Aoi." She paused, then said, "She likes you."

"That's a weight off my mind." Yuriko said, taking Midori's hand in hers, threading their fingers together. "We don't have to stay the whole time, you know...Mi-chan."

Midori jerked her hand in penalty. "Oh, *please* don't call me that!" She smiled up at Yuriko. "I'll be fine. She was just a little nervous. But she does like you, so we're okay. Give her a little time to calm down and we'll be fine." She retrieved her hand with a squeeze. "I'll be fine. We should probably bring in our luggage."

They walked back to the car and opened the trunk, pulling out the top bags, which were full of gifts, to reach the larger pieces below. Yuriko pulled out a heavy case with a grunt. "I don't want to be rude, but..." she gave a little laugh, "which you just know means I'm about to be – but why didn't you just tell me that Aoi's bipolar? It is bipolar? Right?"

Midori picked up the bags that held fruits, toys for the younger children and gifts for her nieces, and nodded. "I don't know. I guess, I suppose one doesn't just do that. You know – oh and by the way, my mother's barking mad."

Yuriko looked off into a middle distance. "There was a boy who was bipolar in high school. I didn't know it then, obviously, I mean, you never do know those kinds of things when you're a kid. He was hard to be around sometimes, but I don't think he was really insane or anything."

Midori gestured dismissively. "You know what I mean. Not mad." She sighed heavily. "Maddening is probably closer to the truth."

A loud "ahoy!" came over the lawn and they looked up to find two youngish men gesturing, as they approached the two women with quick strides.

Yuriko regarded them for a second, while Midori waved back happily. "Based on pictures I've seen, I'm guessing that Satoshi is the one on the left and Masaki is the one on the right."

"Hayao is on the right. Masaki looks a lot like him though – he takes after Aoi and looks far younger than he is." Midori laughed out loud at the look of hopeless confusion on Yuriko's face. "Don't worry, darling – I know you, you'll get everyone's name perfectly right first time around and never make a single mistake. I've seen you at fundraisers and awards dinner, don't forget."

Yuriko grinned back and stepped up to be introduced to two more members of Midori's seemingly endless family.