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 6

"Stars at Night"

Yuriko pressed the button and sighed, as the smooth notes of a solo cello filled the room. The song was simple, sweet, and slightly melancholic, as cello pieces often are; she smiled with pleasure and sighed again, remembering the day she first heard a cello played like that.

Her parents had wanted their children to be "exposed to culture," something she had later realized meant, "We don't enjoy or understand this, but we think it ought to be taught." As a child, she had been taken to Kabuki, to a Shakespeare play, to museums, and several classical concerts. Her parents had watched, not really touched by anything they saw, but awed by the importance and class of it all. Yuriko, who tended to live more in her heart than they, had been moved from time to time, but nothing ever spoke to her directly until one particular concert.

It had been one of Bach’s Cello Suites. The concert had been good, but the cello player had been sublime. Yuriko had felt herself stirred with each movement of the woman's hands. Her gaze had locked on the woman's face, searching it for the message hidden in her music. When the solo had finished, Yuriko had not been at all surprised to find tears in her eyes. She had asked her parents if she could stay to get the cello player's autograph, but they had only wanted to get home. She had never seen that particular soloist again; now she silently thanked the woman for awakening within her a love of music that had never wavered.

Her hand lifted to brush the curtains aside, but she found that in order to do so, she had to move a potted plant, a pile of notebooks and a picture. She removed the offending items, then pulled the curtain aside to look out over a sporadically lit landscape. Her apartment building was no taller than the others nearby, and the view was nothing special. But if she let her mind wander, and her eyes squint, she could imagine the lights to be festival lights strung out over a street, or reflected in water below.

"Maybe I should have been a musician," she said out loud, to the empty apartment.

"You are a musician," Mariko said, from inside her head. Yuri smiled at the memory of the conversation. Mariko had been over one afternoon and she insisted that Yuriko's voice *was* her instrument.

"But," Yuri argued out loud with the Mariko in her memory, "I mean something like an actual instrument, like piano," she held her hands up and splayed her fingers, "or maybe saxophone." Or maybe, she thought as she contemplated the night, cello.

Yuriko let the curtains go with a sigh. They fell heavily, once again blocking the view out - and in. She sat in her chair with the vague idea of relaxing. Today had been a long day, and it didn't look like the week was going to get any easier.

She felt irritable. Nervous energy forced her out of her chair and into the kitchen. Out of habit, she made herself cup of tea, but she wasn't really in the mood for it. She paced back and forth, covering the distance of the living room in a few steps, then turning and heading back to the kitchen area.

Yuriko stretched, but her back and arms hurt, so she stopped. After a moment of confusion, she realized that her personal trainer was already leaving a mark on her life. She grimaced at the idea that such light weights could cause such great discomfort.

The track on the album switched. The cello was no longer alone, but its strong tone fronted the orchestra. The other instruments were there simply to punctuate the cello's statement. Yuriko watched the blinking light on the CD player as the song continued, staccato and strong.

In a way, she was like the cello - or at least, her persona was. All the other instruments, all the staff of the tour and the studio worked hard to make her shine. And she knew that it was her job to shine more brightly than anyone else, just to make their efforts worth it. The question she had was; was she the cello, or the cello player?

It was more than a rhetorical question, Yuriko thought, as she resumed her pacing. If she was the cello player, then it was due to a certain measure of skill and effort that she had become a star.

...But what if she was no more than the instrument? What if her stardom was just the product of other people's skill and design?

Yuriko gazed across the room at her reflection in the mirror. She smiled, then frowned, then sneered, then gave herself a longing, bedroom-eyed look. Her clothes, her music, her words, even the way she moved were crafted by other people. How much of was really her at all?

Once again, Yuriko resumed pacing. Looking back, Yuri could hardly tell when her life had left her own control. One day, she had been a homeless waif...the next, a pop idol. It all seemed so sudden and unreal.

Yuriko stopped where she stood, half a pace in front of the kitchen counter. She picked up her cup of tea and sipped from it. Walking over to the chair, she placed her saucer on the table and her butt firmly in the chair.

"It's a little early to be having a mid-life crisis, "she laughed at herself. She knew that she was just stressed, and that her feeling of unease came from that stress...but she felt that if she did not do *something* she might explode.

"Well," she drank some more tea and considered. "I can't sew. I can't write music." Something to think about - why hadn't she ever tried to learn? She could read it, she could sing it - her pitch was excellent - why not? She put that aside for the moment. "I could choreograph," she admitted. But somehow it never held much appeal for her.

"You *are* a musician," Mariko's voice echoed in her mind.

She bounced out of the chair, grabbing her cup of tea as she did so, took a mouthful, then threw herself onto the sofa with a frustrated sigh. She drank the rest of the tea, laid the cup on the table next to its saucer and leaned back, closing her eyes. She pulled her glasses off and tossed them on the table; they skidded across the surface and fell onto the floor on the other side.

Yuriko's eyes wandered around the room, searching for something to grab on to, something that would wash the sense of uselessness from her. It wasn't like she didn't have good reason to stress, after all. But she didn't *want* to sit here, alone and full of restless, unproductive energy. She considered calling Mari, but remembered that she and Hachi had a business dinner that night.

She lifted an address book from the table next to the phone and paged through it haphazardly. Most of the names were female; she realized with a start that she had far fewer friends than she had had lovers. The book went flying across the table and landed next to the glasses on the floor.

Her eyes continued to roam. Shelves of CDs, books, photos. The plant from the window, perched awkwardly on a pile of notebooks.

Notebooks?

Yuriko stood, retrieved her glasses from the floor, and walked over to the shelves by the window. She lifted the plant once more and set it back in its position in front of the window, then carried the notebooks to the table.

She opened one at random, smiling at the contents. The page was filled with notes from a high school science class, some poorly executed doodles and a cheerful little drawing of a catgirl with the caption, "Cheer up!" She remembered the day her "sempai" Sayaka had drawn that for her - and she thanked the young woman mentally, as the image did indeed cheer her up.

With an foolish grin, Yuriko began to read the journal of her second high school career, remembering time spent with young people who knew her as a person, not just a star. Far happier times, she acknowledged, than her first stint in high school.

***

The kitchen clock proclaimed that it was just slightly after midnight when Midori entered the apartment. The author dropped her bag and coat on the back of the sofa, knowing that it would drive Yuriko crazy if she found it there in the morning. She smiled at the thought - the singer was so adorable when she was being prissy.

Midori glanced around the apartment, jumping at the site of the blonde slumped over her table.

Irrationally, her heart quickened as she crossed the room. There was nothing to be worried about, Yuriko had obviously fallen asleep reading. But in the dark, late at night, in the silence of the apartment, the writer's imagination ran wild.

"Yuri?" Midori called softly, reaching out to shake her lover. There was no immediate response, and Midori's heart gave another leap. She found herself panting a little, so she spent a moment breathing deeply, trying to wrest control of her body from her limbic system.

By the time she had calmed herself, it was apparent to Midori that Yuri has simply fallen asleep at the table. The blonde's face rested against her crossed arms, her cheeks scrunched up against her eyes. Yuri's hair covered her face, moving slightly with her breathing.

Midori took a long moment to enjoy this unguarded moment, to watch Yuriko's back move up and down as she breathed. Her lover's face wasn't "angelic" Midori thought, at all. Yuriko's face was red where it pressed against her arms and pale where it didn't. Her mouth was slack. In fact, if anything, as Midori considered it, if anything, Yuriko looked sort of slow or retarded. She made a mental notation to never describe anyone as "angelic" when they slept, in her writing, since it was so patently untrue. Perhaps, "simple" or "child-like" might be more realistic.

Having made this note, the writer now noticed that Yuri was surrounded by several school notebooks. Most lay closed, but directly in front of her one lay open. Midori slid it closer and read the words scribbled across the page, wondering what Yuriko could have been working on, now that her days in high school were once again behind her.

The notes were all in Yuriko's handwriting, some obviously writing assignments from her time at Mitsukawa High. But a second page was freshly inscribed. A few musical notations were scattered around the page, but mostly, it was filled with short lines of poetry. Many were of indifferent quality, but one or two were interesting. Midori smiled with pleasure at them, taking the pen from the table and starring the better lines, jotting a note or two under a few of the ideas that were solid, but where the execution was weak. She may not know anything about being a pop singer, but *this* she knew.

She laid pen and notebook back on the table, and ran her hand lightly through the singer's blonde hair.

"Let's go to bed," she spoke quietly into Yuriko's ear. She grinned with utter delight as the singer awoke and sleepily looked around.

"Welcome home," Yuri muttered, rubbing her eyes like a child. Midori had the singular sensation that her chest might explode, as she watched Yuri drowsily search for her glasses.

"Come on," the writer commanded gently, "Let's get you to bed. You're exhausted."

Yuri yawned and shuffled off obediently. Midori cast another glance across the table, and followed the blonde into the bedroom.

 

Continued

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