Saiyuu no Ryokou: The Continuing Adventures of Yuriko

The Story So Far: Yuriko is still struggling with her place on the tour and in life. Old friends and new enemies make the day to day interesting, in the old adage sense.

Volume 3, Issue 8

"Curtain Call"

 

"No, see, that's the thing," the voice was insistent, but Yuriko couldn't recognize it over the crowd noise. "It *wasn't* an accident. She was pushed." They were obviously discussing the plot of a new show. Mysteries were hot this season.

Yuriko passed through the canteen, slowing only to grab a boxed lunch and a can of tea.

"Hey," someone said immediately behind her. Yuriko spun in place to find herself facing a tall youth whose loose, earnest face seemed out of place in this high-fashion and high-tension world. "Um, hi, Yuriko-san."

It took Yuri a moment to place the boy. It had been months since she had seen him last. "Good morning, Togai-kun," she smiled pleasantly. "How have you been?"

He shrugged, then jumped as if having been slapped. "Fine, I mean, good, thanks!" His face colored. "I'm working here now."

Yuriko counted months mentally. "You left school?" She did not keep the disapproval out of her voice - she had hoped that a having career path would be the thing that kept Togai in school until graduation. And if her plan had failed, there'd be one angry brother after her...

"No, I'm doing a work-study program. It's like an internship."

"That's great!" Yuriko smiled, pleased. Togai had been one of her great successes in meddling. "How's your brother?" Uto had been another.

Togai grinned widely. "He's really good. He likes the club, and they seem to like him there. He works hard - does a lot of overtime. I think he'd like to manage a club one day - maybe one of his own."

"That's great," Yuriko said happily, patting Togai lightly on the shoulder. "Well, I have to get..."

"Um, but, actually," Togai put his hand out to stop her, "I wanted to know if you're all right?"

Frowning, Yuriko faced the young man. "What do you mean? I feel fine, as far as I know."

Togai colored again. "I know this sounds stupid, I just heard a lot of things about your tour - like things being trashed and accidents happening, so I when I saw you, I just wanted to make sure you were okay."

The frowned deepened. "Accidents?"

"Yeah, like the Director's car." Togai was obviously under the assumption that Yuriko knew all about the incident.

"What happened to Ren-san's car?"

The young man looks surprised. "You haven't heard? His tires were slashed in the parking lot."

"Yeah?"

"Well, yeah," but now the tall youth was backing away. "I didn't want to upset you...."

"No, I'm not upset, I've just heard a lot of rumors and I'm not sure what's true these days." Yuriko lied smoothly, putting a hand on the youth's elbow. She smiled reassuringly. "I know I can trust you."

With an unsure smile in return, Togai said, "Well, there was the set that was destroyed, right? I was working with the lighting guys and they said that all the effects were ripped right out. And then the Director's car, of course, and just the other day that lady, the dance person -she was pushed down the stairs." Seeing the look on Yuriko's face, Togai began to pull away once more. "Um, or so I heard, but it might not be true," he added lamely.

"Pushed?" She felt overwhelmed and exhausted by the news. Maybe the tour *was* cursed - the tour and every one involved in it. That would explain her week...and Kishi-san and…

"Not on purpose!" Togai yelped, trying to extricate himself from the blonde's insistent grasp. "I mean, they say someone bumped her and she fell down the stairs. It was probably an accident."

Yuriko let go of his arm with an apologetic smile. "Right, it was just an accident." She wondered why she already hadn't heard any of these rumors. "I really have to be going, Togai-kun, but thanks for checking up on me. I'm just fine." She smiled brightly, but the young man looked doubtful.

"Okay, well, it was nice to see you again." He bowed and took himself off as fast as he could without seeming rude.

Yuriko stared blankly into the crowd after him. It was stupid, she thought, to think that the tour was cursed. She knew that, of course. But ever since she had returned from her vacation, there had been this feeling of dread lingering over her like the proverbial black cloud. She left the commissary feeling burdened and frustrated.

***

Ah, right, Yuriko commented to herself, *this* was why she hadn't heard any of the rumors. She watched as a barely coherent Haru fluttered and dithered around her in the small dressing room.

Yuriko sighed loudly, but the older woman took no notice. She thought about asking Ren-san for another dresser - one who was marginally more stable, more creative, more up on the gossip. A nice gay man would be perfect.

She watched as Haru moved a vase to a third location, then a fourth. As if where the flowers sat were of primary importance to her. Maybe they were - for all Yuriko knew, Haru was a world-renowned master of flower arranging. Although, watching her fret over the vase as she chose a fifth spot, that didn't seen terribly likely.

"Haru-san," Yuriko asked, keeping her voice low and even. Every time she spoke, the woman reacted so violently...."Do you do Ikebana?"

"No!" The plump little woman jumped at the singer's voice. "I mean, no, no, I don't." She looked vaguely worried at the question.

"Right," Yuriko smiled mildly. "I was just curious."

"Would you prefer Ikebana to these?" Haru motioned at the very Western floral arrangement. "I can have this taken away if you..."

Something in Yuriko's head snapped. She had had an incredibly long week and this woman's nervous incompetence had worn away her last nerve. She stood, towering over the older woman. Looking down at Haru, Yuriko said sharply, "Haru-san, what are you supposed to be doing for me?"

"I don't know what you mean," Haru's voice quivered, as she pulled away from the blonde, all but cowering.

"I mean," Yuriko demanded, "what are you supposed to be doing here? I come in every day and you have no news for me, or about me. You never seem to know what I'm doing or where I need to be - you don't actually help me dress, and you have been worrying about these flowers for an entire quarter of an hour. Just put the damn flowers down somewhere already!"

Yuriko forced herself to take a deep breath and modulate her voice, which had become somewhat shrill. Haru had withdrawn completely into a corner, her hands in front of her face. "I'm sorry! I'm sorry" she repeated, her arms crossed in front of her face, as if to ward off a blow.

Yuriko stared at Haru, shocked by the dresser's reaction. Did she expect to get hit? "Haru-san..."

"I've displeased you!" The woman's words were thick with terror. "I'm sorry! I'm sorry!"

Yuri looked hard at the older woman. Haru's reaction bore all the marks of an abused person. Yuriko didn't know Haru's history - but she didn't want to cause the woman another second of misery if she could help it. Haru was older - late middle age, at least. If she lost this job, there was a good chance she wouldn't find work anywhere else.

The singer took a large, obvious step back, moving out of the little woman's personal space and seated herself backwards in the wire-frame chair at her dressing table. Crossing her arms on the chair's back, Yuri said, "Haru-san, I'm not going to hurt you - I'm not even angry at you, really, I've just had a very, very bad week. I'm terribly sorry for scaring you. Please," she gestured at the sofa, "have a seat. Have a drink too," Yuriko poured a glass of water and laid it on the small table in front of the sofa, then sat back, moving away from the couch. "I don't know what you're afraid of, but I don't want you to be afraid of me."

The older woman lowered her arms slowly, shuffling forward to the sofa. Keeping both eyes on the blonde, she sat on the very edge of the sofa as far from Yuriko as possible.

"Please," Yuriko gestured at the glass. Haru picked it up, but did not drink from it.

Pouring herself a glass of water, Yuriko took a long drink of the liquid, while she considered her next words.

It was definite now - she could see her dresser shaking with fear. Keeping her eyes fixed on the glass of water in the older woman's hands, Yuriko asked gently, "Haru-san, when you were given this assignment, did someone tell you about me - about my personality?"

The older woman bowed where she sat, "Please forgive me." She kept her head bowed, but said nothing more.

It all fell into place - the woman's nervousness, her reaction every time Yuriko addressed her, her fear of responsibility.... "Let me guess," Yuriko prompted, "someone told you that I was very demanding - that I lost my temper over any little detail, and that, maybe, I had a reputation for striking out if I was displeased?"

Haru's head dipped slightly as she bowed again.

"Ah," Yuriko breathed, trying to keep her voice calm. "I don't know who told you that, Haru-san, and I don't know why...but they were lying." When the older woman didn't move, Yuriko continued, "I can give you names of a few people you can talk to. They'll set you straight. Maybe you'll believe them." She sighed. "Haru-san, I think we have some talking to do right now."

But even as she began to address the issues between them with the older women, in her mind one thing kept repeating, over and over, like a bell tolling.

This tour was cursed.

 

Continued

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