Saiyuu no Ryokou: The Continuing Adventures of Yuriko

The Story So Far: In the middle of the storm that is her life, Yuriko has taken a few hours to have a premature mid-life crisis. She feels pretty good about it, too.

Volume 3, Issue 7

I am, therefore..."

"How do you do it?" Midori asked, gesturing with the piece of toast between her fingers. They were sitting at the table in the main room, enjoying a light breakfast in the bright light that streamed through the open window.

"What?" Yuriko smiled back at the writer.

"How do you keep such a cheerful outlook on things?" Midori laid the toast down and refilled their coffee cups, adding cream to her own. "I mean, there are people everywhere, always taking pictures of you, of me, of us. People line up just to scream obscenities at you - even go through your do you do it?"

"There are people who go through my garbage?" Yuriko stared at Midori in shock. "Really?"

The dark-haired woman stared back at Yuriko for a full minute, then picked her toast up from where it lay on her plate. "Well, I guess denial works." She looked away, then back at the singer, when she laughed.

"I'm not in denial," Yuri said with a twisted smile, pleased at her ability to act convincingly clueless. "I just prefer to separate my fact from my fantasy. I *know* there are people who want to peep through my windows just to get a photo they can sell to the tabloids. And I know that there are really strange people who go through my garbage, or my laundry, or who want nothing better than to lambaste me on the street with their views on my lifestyle. I can't help them, and I can't stop them, but I refuse to be ruled by them."

Midori sighed. "You make it seem so easy."

Something in Midori's tone made Yuriko look at her lover sharply. "Why? What happened?"

"Nothing," the writer sighed. "There were paparazzi waiting in front of the building - they got me as I came in." She chewed reflectively on her breakfast. "It wasn't even the pictures, so much, as the things they say to get you to look at them or to react. It's disgusting." She said the last words with a wounded tone.

"I'm sorry." Yuriko didn't really know what to say to that. She had always treated the paparazzi as a necessary evil, smiling into their cameras regardless of her personal feelings.

"One of them asked me about the rumor that you and Mayumi-san are having an affair..."

Yuriko's hoot of laughter was loud and sudden. "Oh, really? We are?" Yuriko snickered. "I wish someone would tell Mayumi-san that - maybe she'd be nicer to me." She paused for a moment, "On the other hand, maybe someone did and that's why she's so nasty...." Another pause, then Yuri shrugged. "Well, you know they'll say anything, even if it's a bald-faced lie. It can get pretty exhausting. But that one does seem kind of obvious, even to me."

"So, how do you stay so cheerful in the face of it?" Midori's voice was strained. "I don't object to living my life in public, in theory. But before, public wasn't nearly so *public*, if you know what I mean. People just weren't interested in me - not they are now, either...I'm just a way to get to you."

"You underestimate yourself," Yuriko reassured her. "Your new book is rising on the sales charts, into what can only be considered genuine popularity - or hadn't you noticed?" Seeing that Midori still looked upset, Yuriko put her coffee cup down and leaned forward earnestly.

"Midori," she put an extra measure of firmness into her voice to draw the other woman's full attention. "I deal with it by knowing that the person in the media, no matter how much like me she looks and acts, isn't *me.*" When the writer looked surprised at this, Yuri continued. "Look, there's Yuriko, the pop idol, singer, actress, model, media darling and punching bag for activists everywhere. That Yuriko eats in public, and sleeps with her lovers in public. She's carefree, charming, happy-go-lucky, etc.

"Then there's me. Tsuchiya Yuriko. Unwanted third daughter of an unambiguously middle-class household. I have a life most people can only dream about, but it's not really *my* life. It's my persona's. My life is more about," she swept her hand to gesture at the notebooks that still lay scattered on the table, "badly written poetry and times spent with my friends than it is about anything else. If I weren't doing this, I don't know what I'd be doing, but it's not real, what Yuriko the idol does. She's not the real Yuriko." Yuriko sat back to catch her breath and reflect. "And it just occurred to me that I've begun to blur the lines between the two."

Through the last part of this monologue, Midori had sat, shaking her head slightly, a small smile twitching at the corner of her lips. "You," she said, as she picked up her coffee once again, "are so thoroughly wrong, it's quite remarkable." When blue eyes met her own, she smiled openly. "You are no less charming than your persona, you know. If the Yuriko people saw on stage were not the real Yuriko, your fans would know, you know."

The writer brushed crumbs from her hands, and stirred her coffee. "What people see in you, my dear, is the *lack* of artifice, the genuine article. If you were nothing but slick manners and nice tailoring, do you think you would still be popular after all this time? Face it - you're a little old to be just another Next Big Thing on the pop idol scene."

Yuriko pursed her lips, trying to find an appropriate rebuttal to that.

"No," Midori answered for her. "You'd have been replaced at the top long ago by the next manufactured act. What people see in you - what they love about you - is the fact that despite your fame, and your stardom, you're just plain old Yuriko, who makes people happy and is a really nice person to be around." Midori stood, picking empty plates off the table and turning to carry them into the kitchen. "And I think," she said softly, "that I just answered my own question."



For once, Yuriko was able to waltz into the dance room last, on time, but only barely. She savored the moment as Mayumi shot her a sour look, returning it with an extra-pleasant smile.

Madam Sophia was there, her recent absence never mentioned. But Yuriko couldn't help but notice the tight bandage that ran from the woman's foot nearly to her knee. Other than the fact that she leaned more heavily on her stick today, she seemed no worse for whatever had happened to her.

Dance practice was conducted with a minimum of extraneous speech. Mayumi and Yuriko were more in synch these days; their dancing more a partnership than Yuriko would have ever believed it could be. After a grueling repetition of their final number, Yuriko found herself dismissed early, with a short warning to be there early the next day.

"I work with the little girl today. Tomorrow I work with just you. You understand? There are things that must be fixed. Habits you pick up..." Madame Sophia clucked her tongue and shook her head. "Together you will be the most beautiful. You understand?"

"I understand," Yuriko answered quickly, not wanting to disappoint the woman. She did understand, of course, but what bad habits could she have picked up?

"Um, Madame," Yuri had a thought. She stopped where she stood, and spun to face the teacher. "I see you hurt your leg – are you all right? Is that why you were absent yesterday?"

Madame Sophia looked surprised, as if she had herself just realized that she was injured. "Yes," she responded, her voice less sharp than usual. "Yes, yesterday I had an accident. I slipped down stairs." A strange look crossed her face. When she said, "Thank you for asking," rather formally, Yuriko realized that the look had been one of gratitude. The choreographer looked up at her, an embarrassed expression on her wrinkled face.

Yuri bowed deeply; a bow of respect to an honored teacher. "If there is anything I can do for you, please don't hesitate to let me know."

This made Madame Sophia stand up stiffly and stamp her stick into the ground. "Yes, big girl," she commanded, "For me you can come early tomorrow!"

Yuriko bowed shortly and grinned, "Yes, teacher!" she shouted and bounded out of the room, laughing.



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