Saiyuu no Ryokou: Adventures of Yuriko

The Story So Far: With a new relationship and a new album, all is going pretty well for Yuriko, or so she hopes. Today she meets her co-star for the first time.

Volume 1, Issue 4

"Star Crossed"

Yuriko sighed quietly and settled her hands in her lap. The room was already warm and the sun was just beginning to slant into the window. Kishi shifted to look out at the city, while Miyamoto, her agent, turned to the production company representatives.

"Nakayama-san *is* coming, correct?" Miyamoto's polite voice was carefully inoffensive as he spoke. He was reassured that the other woman would be arriving any moment. As if to reassure himself, the company man then pulled out his cell phone and made a quick call.

Yuriko met Kishi's eyes briefly. They both turned away before either of them was tempted to give away their feelings on the subject of being left to dance attendance on a woman who was thirty minutes late.

The door opened abruptly and everyone jumped to their feet, as two women and a man entered the room. Nakayama Mayumi was immediately recognizable by her diminutive size, dyed auburn hair, ample chest and her extremely well-known pout.

Introductions were made quickly when it appeared that no apologies were forthcoming from the star. Her manager, Terada Rika, immediately launched into a discussion of details that pertained solely to her client. Yuriko stifled a yawn.

The production company representative nodded politely as the flow of words continued, but Yuriko could see his discomfort. Clearly, he didn't have the ability to make these decisions. When Terada finally took a breath, he didn't hesitate to speak up.

"I'm sorry, Terada-san, we are still waiting on one more person - he will be able to more effectively discuss the setup of the tour."

Yuriko's eyebrows rose with interest. "Oh, who are we waiting for?" She shifted slightly, trying to peel her now sticky shirt off her back. She wondered if the room didn't have air conditioning, or if they simply felt it wasn't worth turning on.

"The director. I'm in charge of promotion, but I don't have anything to do with the actual performance. Your," here he nodded to a sour-looking Terada, "requests should be made to the director.

"And he's not here?" Mayumi huffed. "That's very rude, keeping us waiting. Doesn't he realize that we're busy?"

There was a careful silence as nobody mentioned the obvious.

The promoter cleared his throat and apologized. "He'll be here any moment."

"Sorry! Sorry! Sorry!" They could hear the voice preceding the man himself. A figure slammed through the door, then hung on the door frame panting dramatically. He bowed deeply, as he tried to get his breath, then stood, a large smile wreathing his sweaty, handsome face. "My deepest apologies, everyone! I didn't realize how far away this office was from mine. I thought I could walk." He nodded happily at his own poor decision.

Mayumi's chest rose in indignation as she prepared to remonstrate with the man, but he was already walking over to Yuriko; one hand outstretched, pleasant greetings tumbling casually off his lips. "My dear Yuriko! How *are* you?"

"Ren-san!" Yuriko cried, as she rose to greet her composer. "It's good to see you again. Don't tell me you're going to be directing this show? That's great!" They shook hands happily as Ren confirmed his position.

"I'm a last minute replacement," he said pleasantly, running his hands through his receding hairline. "They wanted someone else, but he was unable to make the time commitment. I just had a stage production fall through due to lack of funding, so here we are!" he gestured expansively.

Yuriko became aware of uncomfortable looks coming from the other side of the table. Renzo and she cut off their mutual admiration and turned towards a deeply dissatisfied-looking Mayumi.

Yuriko shot a glance towards the promoter who nodded briefly and with more than a little relief. Yuriko took the cue and introduced Renzo as "Haibara Renzo, songwriter, poet, set designer, artist, director, Renaissance man."

Mayumi nodded with barely concealed impatience and introduced herself after her manager did the honors. Renzo was gracious and friendly, but Yuriko couldn't help but note something rather unpleasant in Mayumi's if the singer was trying to decide whether Renzo was worth her interest.

When she once again spoke, Mayumi gave the director a winsome smile. Apparently she had decided that he *was* worth the effort, Yuriko noted with amusement.

"Renzo-san, please call me 'Mayu-chan'." Her tone was pleasant, sexy and a little suggestive. Yuriko choked back a laugh. She wondered how long it would be before Mayumi gave up that particular tack.

"Thank you, Mayu-chan," Renzo began effusively. "I'm very excited to be working with you and Yuri-chan," Ren angled his face slightly and winked at Yuriko, whose lips twitched. "I'm sure that this will be an edifying process for all of us."

"Absolutely!" Mayumi chirped. Yuriko briefly wondered if she knew what "edifying" meant.

"Well, all I know is that with you spearheading the design and staging, Ren-san, this ought to be a terrific production." Yuriko smiled brightly at her costar, who shot her a disagreeable look. Ostentatiously, Yuriko pulled a handkerchief from her pocket and wiped the sweat from her neck.

"Yes, well, about that," Mayumi turned her attention completely to the men in the room, cutting out Yuriko and her manager, "Rika-san and I have some concerns?"

The next half hour was filled with a repetition of Terada's original complaints, requirements and caveats. Yuriko looked out the window, secure in Kishi's abilities and her own position in the show.

When the promoter, producer and director has all assured Mayumi that yes, she'd be treated like a star and no, we're very sorry, but this would remain a double bill, they were at last allowed to begin the real discussion of the production.


The elevator doors closed as Yuriko and Kishi rounded the corner. Yuriko stepped forward to push the button, crossed her arms and leaned against the wall.

Kishi pulled out a cigarette, rolled it over in her hands and sighed. "Long meeting," she said.

Yuriko nodded. "It'll be an even longer tour."

Kishi nodded, tapping the cigarette on her palm. She hesitated for a moment, then cleared her throat. "I don't like that girl," she said shortly.

Yuriko's head snapped up in surprise. Kishi never, for all her gruffness, said anything genuinely negative about anyone.

Kishi met Yuriko's eyes, "I think you need to be very careful around her," the older woman cautioned.

Yuriko nodded solemnly. When Kishi offered advice, she knew enough to listen. In their years together, it had been the older woman's guidance and ability to make crucial decisions that had gotten Yuriko this far. She knew perfectly well that without her manager, she'd be just another wannabee. Or, more probably, dead on the streets.

The ding of the elevator sounded several floors below. Yuriko and Kishi turned at the sound of heels on the linoleum, as Mayumi and her manager approached.

The elevator rang again, closer. Yuriko smiled broadly and bowed to the other women. "Share our chariot?" she asked, gesturing to the elevator doors, as they slid open.

Without a word, Mayumi and Terada entered the elevator, pointedly ignoring Yuriko and Kishi. Yuriko raised an eyebrow as she glanced at her manager. The tension was thicker than the heat, which was itself oppressive.

They joined the diminutive singer and her manager in uncomfortable silence. After a moment, Yuriko turned, smiling, to address Mayumi. "I just wanted to let you know that I'm very much looking forward to working with you, Mayumi-san. We'll do our best, right?" She bowed slightly, as she spoke the formulaic words.

Mayumi said nothing for a long moment, then put one elegantly manicured hand up, laying it lightly on Yuriko's arm. The tall blonde stood quite paralyzed, as the shorter woman ran her chestnut-colored nails back and forth along her forearm.

Mayumi smiled gently, suggestively, as she had at Renzo a few hours ago. Yuriko made to pull away, but Mayumi gripped her arm with a surprising strength as she looked up at the blonde. "Yuriko-san," Mayumi said with a complete lack of venom, "I don't like you. I'm not your friend now and I won't ever be your friend. Stay away from me."

Yuriko found her arm released as the elevator came to a stop. Mayumi and Terada exited without another word, and without even an apologetic glance from the older woman.

Gaping, Yuriko moved slowly out of the elevator into the lobby. With an elaborate sigh as she joined her charge, Kishi lit her cigarette.