Saiyuu no Ryokou: The Continuing Adventures of Yuriko

The Story So Far: Yuriko finds many mysteries to ponder in her first day with Midoriís family Ė who is crying outside at midnight? And what was Midoriís hobby in high school?

 

Volume 2, Issue 9

"A Brisk Workout"

 

Yuriko woke with two distinct sensations – the words "I love your stomach" on her lips and the recognition that her feet were cold. The first slipped from her mind almost immediately, but the second persisted. The window was still open and a distinctly cool draft was wafting across the bed. She squirmed, hoping to rub some warmth back into her feet, but it was hopeless.

Yuri was now wide-awake and unusually restless. Moving carefully so that she would not disturb Midori, she dressed and left the room, carrying a pair of sneakers.

The house was quiet. At least in this wing, there was no sound. Yuriko thought she could hear some faint noise from the children’s rooms – she decided not to investigate. Without conscious thought, she found herself lacing her sneakers up and heading out of the house.

It was cold outside - Yuriko shivered in her jacket and rubbed her hands together. It struck her as odd that, just two mornings ago she had woken up to another foul, humid, hot Tokyo morning, and here she stood, a few hours away in space and not that much further in time, shivering from the cold and taking deep breaths of pine-scented air.

She walked randomly towards the stand of trees, scanning the area for she wasn’t quite sure what. The springy grass would hardly show footprints from late last night in the morning dew, and even if it did, what would she have learned other than that someone was up even earlier than she was? She looked back at the house and realized that she had no idea which window belonged to her room, or which of the several pine trees stood in its direct line of sight. With an expansive shrug, Yuriko gave up her nascent detective career and started a brisk walk around the lake.

The lake was shrouded in mist, the houses silent in the morning. The crunch of her feet on the gravel wasn’t loud, but was satisfying. Yuriko picked up her pace, breaking into a light run. She was slightly surprised at her energy – she wasn’t in the habit of exercising when she wasn’t required to, but somehow it felt right. Maybe it was the air, or maybe it was her body’s way of preventing pain when she returned to Madame Sophia’s gentle ministrations. Or maybe, she thought as she completed the first lap, maybe it just feels good, sometimes, to run. She laughed out loud at the thought. Maybe she ought to call Ruriko-sensei and let her know that her erstwhile forward had *finally* bought into the whole exercise thing.

The sun was rising over the surrounding hills, burning the mist off of the lake now. Yuri could make out ripples on the lake where fish were feeding, and ducks sliding across the surface. She waved at a pair of ducks who stared impassively back at her.

On the third lap, she watched as a car pulled away from one of the houses, and briefly wondered who they were and where they were going. She rounded the corner and headed back towards the house at a full out run, but pulled up at the sight of someone coming towards her. The figure was too far away to make out, but it waved and Yuriko waved back, slowing to a jog. She squinted as the figure came closer – it was male, anyway, all of the women in the house had longer hair than that. He broke into a lope of his own that brought them within hailing distance of each other.

"Good morning!" the voice proclaimed the figure to be Satoshi – his voice was rather higher pitched than his brothers’.

"Good morning!" Yuriko replied, as she jogged the last few meters and met him on the path.

"You’re up early," Satoshi said with a smile. "I have to admit, I didn’t think you’d be a morning and exercise person. Please don’t tell me you’re a health nut."

Yuriko grinned. "Only on vacation – back in the city, I’m a total hedonist."

Satoshi chuckled. "Somehow I doubt that. I had heard that you were a bit of a player in the past, but...oh my goodness, that was impossibly rude, wasn’t it?" He pushed his glasses up his nose to cover the fact that he was blushing slightly.

Waving away his discomfort, Yuriko nodded. "I was, but not any more." She thought about it for a second and continued, "I suppose that kind of thing must concern the family."

"A little, I suppose, but Sis has always been uncommonly self-reliant." Satoshi looked around then gestured at his sneaker-clad feet. "Um, I was going to do a few laps myself – want to join me, or were you finishing up?"

Yuriko stretched her legs a little. "I think I’m okay for a few more. I’d like the company."

Satoshi grinned. "And the chance to pump me for information, I bet."

"Well, yeah, that too." Yuri grinned happily. She and Satoshi set off at a leisurely pace. "So, let’s start with the basics...tell me all about Midori in tedious detail starting with her birth."

Satoshi laughed at that. "Let’s see, she’s um, opinionated, competent and a bit of a loner, I guess. She’s a born writer – one of my earliest memories of Mi-chan was of her copying my writing homework when she was like five or so. She used to sit all of us down and make up the most amazing stories about things that lived in the woods around here – spirits and gods and animals...some of it was local legend that she elaborated on, some she just, well, made up."

Yuriko knew perfectly well that she was grinning foolishly, but decided she was allowed. "What do you do for a living, Satoshi-san? I know Hayao-san writes, and Gin-san helps your father run the business..."

"I’m a mechanical engineer," Satoshi smiled patiently, "and you have my permission to let your eyes glaze over now. I’m the black sheep in this family of creative types – I can’t draw or write, or sing, as you heard last night."

"A black sheep?" Yuriko was incredulous. "Can this family even *have* a black sheep? You’re all so...different." She thought about that, even as she said it. There was something important there, but she couldn’t pinpoint it now.

Satoshi was also lost in thought. "It’s true – we’re a diverse bunch," he agreed. "But even so, I’m the only scientist in the group. Even the technical manuals Hayao works on – he specializes in graphic programs, computer sims, 3-D graphics, that kind of thing. I just couldn’t wrap my mind around pictures and words. But numbers...they make sense. They’re totally predictable."

Yuriko watched in fascination as Satoshi rhapsodized about his specialty. She hadn’t realized that there were people other than her brother who thought this way. "You know," she said when Satoshi paused, "I think you’d get along well with my brother – he works in artificial intelligence...I think. I can never quite understand what he’s talking about."

"At the risk of being rude - again – if you can’t understand anything he says, he’s definitely a mathematician." He smiled pleasantly at Yuri.

She reflected on the easy way Midori’s family had about them. Writer, architect, engineer, they all had a simple, down-to-earth charm...the kind of charm it had taken her years to learn. She admired and resented them all for a moment or two.

"Now," Satoshi said, breathing a little heavily, "it’s your turn to tell me about Yuriko. We obviously know a lot about you – but we don’t know anything about you, if you know what I mean. And Midori is my little sister – I’m supposed to watch out for her."

"What would you like to know?" Yuriko felt a tense knot crawl into her stomach. What could she say about herself to this man? She had no academic credentials, no real accomplishments....

Satoshi mused. "I guess I’d like to know about Yuriko the person, instead of Yuriko the persona." He ducked his head. "When we heard that you and Sis were together, we..." he paused and bit his lip, "we only knew what we had heard, you know, and we were concerned. She’s made some rash choices before."

Yuriko nodded sagely. "Haven’t we all?"

They jogged on in silence for a short while. Yuriko shot the man beside her a quick look and decided to lay it all on the line. "Look, I’m not exactly the deepest person on the planet, I’m a pop idol. I act, I sing, I do stupid game shows and advertisements and I’m at the beck and call of my agent, my manager, my fans and whoever’s writing the check that week. I can’t claim to be anything special. But I can tell you this – Midori is the most important person in the world to me..." she stopped speaking, her throat tightening up of its own accord.

She cleared her throat and continued. "When left to myself, I like to read, preferably something with depth, I have an inordinate fondness for string quartets and cello concertos, and I like to dance."

"The last we knew," Satoshi’s voice was pleasant, but Yuriko blushed anyway.

"Yeah, the TV thing. I’m sorry about that...it was kind of complicated."

Satoshi waved her concern away. "I figured that it had something to do with the tabloid story about you and the teacher." He glanced at her quickly. "That wasn’t true, I assume?"

"Not at all," Yuriko spoke with fervor. "So, to abruptly change the subject, how about heading back and getting some breakfast?"

"Good idea. Yuu should be up and I know the kids all are..."

"Your children are very..." Yuriko groped for an appropriate term, "energetic." They stopped on the lawn and began stretching out.

Satoshi barked with laughter. "You don’t know the half of it – you met them after a long day of swimming and playing. They were downright laid back. That’s one of the reasons I jog – I have to be able to keep up with them! And it doesn’t help that my wife is an ex-athlete. I’m behind my desk all day, to make matters worse."

Yuriko seized on the bit that she found intriguing. "An ex-athlete? What did she play?"

"Soccer. She played forward. Made the national team one year." He didn’t bother keeping the pride out of his voice.

As they walked back into the house, Yuriko tried to fit the mental picture she had of Yuuka with the image of a star soccer forward. She couldn’t make it work.

The house smelled of pancakes as they entered. Akane went running by, giggling, followed closely by Kurika, shouting "give it back!"

Yuriko looked back with longing at the peaceful lake, then shut the door behind her. She smiled at Satoshi, then bowed to Ritsuko who was walking across the living room floor muttering about coffee and noise.

"Good morning," Midori greeted her with a cup of coffee and a bright smile. "You were up early."

Grinning, Yuriko took the coffee and squeezed Midori’s hand in thanks. "I woke up with cold feet and thought I’d go for a jog.’

Midori leaned forward, speaking softly into Yuriko’s ear. "Next time your feet are cold, just wake me up. I can think of better ways than jogging to warm up."

Yuriko’s face colored. She glanced covertly around, and realized in a moment of intense clarity just what it meant to be part of a big family. Three adults were busy chastising two different children for several different transgressions. The living room was filled with people in various stages of dress, some still non-verbal before coffee or tea had revived them, others chattering a mile a minute. Not a single person was paying any attention to them at all. Yuriko felt dizzy with the sensation of too much happening at once to follow.

A small warmth made Yuriko glance back down at her lover. Midori had placed a hand on Yuri’s arm. Yuriko grinned. "I’ll remember that tomorrow morning."

 

Continued

Saiyuu no Ryokou, all characters and situations, copyright E. Friedman.

Copyright Yurikon LLC. All rights reserved.