Saiyuu no Ryokou: The Continuing Adventures of Yuriko

The Story So Far: Yuriko has definitely had better days. Between bad news from Kishi-san, and Mayumi's impenetrable dislike, she expects the storm -or her - to break any second.

Volume 3, Issue 3

"Sick and Tired"


"Stop. Turn. Right, now back. Good, left hand, good, then, spin. Right, back, close and stop!" Madame Sophia's accented voice barked out orders like a drill sergeant. Yuriko and Mayumi panted at each other, their faces no more than inches apart. Their eyes locked, bodies taught, arms entwined, anyone watching would have supposed them to be close friends, maybe even lovers. Yuriko's eyes flicked to the mirrors along one wall, stunned for a moment by the reflection. It was a provocative pose; calculated and impressively sexy.

The choreographer forced them to hold the position for a few more breaths before she let them relax. Mayumi immediately moved as far away from Yuriko as she could in the small space. Yuri simply collapsed where she stood, flopping back onto the floor, letting the sweat roll off her body onto the polyurethaned wood.

Footsteps approached. Yuriko kept her eyes closed, willing herself to breathe deeply, to ignore whatever zinger was about to be launched in her direction. She knew perfectly well that neither dance instructor nor co-star respected her. She'd suffered more than her share of sarcasm from both. Right now, she didn't care. This was her job and she *would* be good at it - if it killed her...which it felt like it was at this second.

The footsteps stopped by her head. Yuriko opened her eyes reluctantly. Madam Sophia stared down at her, her face blank. Yuriko waited for the punch line patiently.

"Yes," Madame Sophia said quietly. "Yes, you understand, now? This is not is work and you must work very hard at it." The little Romanian lifted her head to pin Mayumi with her gaze. "You do not understand, but she," she gestured to the floor, "this one does. This is not for *you!*" On the last word, Madame Sophia brought her stick onto the ground with enough force to shake the mirrors on the walls. "This is for the ones who will watch you. Not for you to look pretty, just. For you to look the prettiest. You must understand this and work much harder."

Yuriko watched the dance instructor with surprise. Yes, of course. This wasn't about her at all. She lifted herself from the floor and stood, resolution flowing through her limbs. It was about her fans - this was for them. Because they were spending a lot of money to see this tour - she should give them every ounce of spirit she had. She may not have any real ability, but she could put on a good show - and after all, isn't that what they were paying her to do?

She shook herself and stood, ready to work even harder than she had a moment ago. Amazed at the teacher's profound words and amused at her own reaction, Yuriko took a deep breath and waited.

The room was silent, as the three women stood in tableau. Mayumi, frozen mid-action, looked as if she had been hit. Yuriko watched as a succession of emotions crossed the singer's face. Would she leave? Would she throw a fit? Tune in tomorrow for the continuing adventures of Mayumi the wonder girl, Yuriko thought to herself. She covered her laugh with a cough.

Mayumi put her water bottle down, and stared at Madame Sophia, her eyes blazing. It was obvious that she wanted to leave in a huff, but something inside her warred with the impulse. With a loud, impatient "hmph" Mayumi stepped back into line and waited for the next command.


Hours later, Yuriko slid into her dressing room with a whimper. The gods had it in for her - that much was obvious. Her body hurt, her mind hurt, and her emotional state was so low that one more shock and she might just burst into tears like a child. She desperately wished to be home in bed, but that was hours away.

"Um, I'm sorry to disturb you..." Haru's usual whine was modulated into a tremulous whisper.

Yuriko gave the woman her best bleary-eyed look, hoping she'd take the hint and go away. "Yes?"

"I...I'm sorry to disturb you...but there's someone to see you and she seemed so..." Haru put her hand to her mouth in concern, as if she had been rude. "I mean she seems to know you..."

"Oh for pity's sake, woman, just tell her Mari's here!" Mariko's voice entered the dressing room shortly before she herself did. Her mouth was open to continue her instruction, but one glance at Yuriko and she whirled on the valet with an outstretched finger. "Please bring us a bottle of white wine and two glasses and then leave us alone. We have some important business to discuss. Thanks very much." Mari shooed Haru out of the room and closed the door firmly behind her, ignoring the older woman's concerns about types of wines and temperature and where could she find wine at this time of day....

Mariko gazed down at Yuri for a moment in silence, then took a deep breath and sat on the worn chair in the corner. "You wanna talk about it?" she asked mildly.

"Which "it" should I start with?" Yuriko shot back, irritated.

"How about the "it" that's got you looking like that?" Mariko was impervious.

"No. Not really." Yuriko leaned back in the chair and rubbed her neck. "What I want is a massage, a bath and a weekend in a hotel with my lover. Not necessarily in that order."

Mariko smiled. "Didn't you just come back from Chez Love?"

Yuriko grinned tiredly. "Well, yes, but that was already 24 hours ago. I have needs, you know." She stood and stretched, grimacing as her back snapped. "The choreographer Ren-san has hired is a demon from a particularly nasty level of hell. And my illustrious co-star is from an even nastier one."

A tentative knock on the door interrupted them. Mariko stood, opened the door, relieved Haru of the wine and glasses, closed the door in the woman's face and sat back down, all in one smooth uninterrupted movement.

Yuriko shook her head at her friend. "She'll need therapy now, you know."

"I know, but I don't care about her - I care about you. Have some medicine." Mari handed the blonde a glass of wine.

"Why can't *you* be my valet?" Yuriko asked, after a sip of the pale, insipid liquid. "Bleah." She made a face at the glass. "You'd get me better wine than this."

"And I'm better looking, too, but you'd hate it if I did for you. For one thing, I'd probably be making you give me massages."

"And I'd love it, which is the really strange part," Yuriko admitted. "You know me way too well, Mari." She sighed and closed her eyes. "What a miserable day." When she opened them again, the other woman was watching her with a disturbing intensity.

"What?" she asked, nervously.

"Yuriko," Mari said seriously. "Is everything all right between you and Midori?"

"Yes!" the blonde hastily reassured her. "Very fine. Her family is...nice, by which I mean they are loud and nosy and impressively large and difficult and you know what I mean, since Hachi's family is so big..."

Mariko nodded, her eyes shining. "Oh yes - I'll never forget the first time I had to meet them all at once. I felt like I was being grilled over a slow flame,"

"Right. And we ran into a little problem with our TV interview, which I'm sure you read about," she paused for Mari to nod, "but we're fine. Really. It's just everything else."

"You're not lying, but there's something you're not telling me."

Yuriko faced Mariko full on and looked her in the eyes. "Several things, actually. But I can't - not yet. I'll tell you this though, not all of its bad news. I promise." She stood and held out a hand. "Come with me. I want to introduce you to some people."

Mariko searched her friend's face carefully, then took the hand. She set her half-empty wineglass on the vanity and they left the dressing room together, leaving both bad wine and problems behind them.



Saiyuu no Ryokou, all characters and situations copyright E. Friedman and Yurikon LLC. All Rights Reserved.