Saiyuu no Ryokou: The Continuing Adventures of Yuriko

The Story So Far: Yuriko's day of relaxation in and out of the wrestling ring has worked wonders. Midori's suggestion that they live together for the next few weeks before the tour hasn't hurt, either. Yuriko faces a long, difficult week with a positive outlook.

 

Volume 4, Issue 6

"Standard Operating Procedure"

 

Yuriko's hand hesitated over the handle to her dressing room door. She could hear movement within. As she focused on the sound, she could also hear a voice muttering quietly to itself. Resigning herself to whatever awaited inside, Yuri took a deep breath and slid the door open.

What awaited was, in fact, nothing that she could have even remotely imagined. Her dressing room had always been a little tattered and ratty, despite her star status. The furniture was worn from years of use by various people, the lighting fixtures a little too old, the bulbs a little too dim. Yuriko knew that she was entitled to more, but as spoiled as she was, it had never really occurred to her to demand more. What was the point, really? Oh sure, she had, in moments of depression, imagined throwing a tantrum and screaming for rare hardwoods and luxurious materials, but as soon as the thought even crossed her mind, she always seemed to run into Mayumi. Face to face with the stereotype of the tantrum-throwing diva, Yuriko would content herself with being the "good" one.

So, it was with considerable surprise that she walked in on a dressing room that had been completely refurbished. The furniture looked new...and, from their rich sheen, made of rare hardwoods. New materials, pillows, even new lighting greeted her. She had to consciously tell herself to close her jaw at least twice, as she stood in the middle of this bizarre, yet extremely welcome, transformation.

"Whew," Yuriko whistled breathily. "What happened here?"

From beside the new sofa (now covered in a luscious pile of deep burgundy pillows, a far cry from the stodgy flower pattern of the previous incarnation), straightening up from where she was placing the finishing touches on an arrangement of white flowers -lilies, Yuriko noted with some amusement - stood Kitazawa Haru. The older woman looked at Yuriko for a long moment then, in a fluid and abject motion, bowed nearly double.

"I offer my very sincere apologies for the misunderstanding between us, and I hope that it will one day be possible for you to forgive me."

Yuriko cocked her head at the older woman. Keeping her face completely straight, she asked, "One day? Hmmmm." She took a step forward, then another. Quietly, she leaned forward towards her dresser and suggested, "How about we just get it over with today?" Standing upright, she gestured to the room. "If this is how you say you're sorry, then maybe we should disagree every once in a while, just to keep the room fresh." For once, the good humor in her voice wasn't pretense.

There was a pause, and a deep breath, then Haru stood upright. Yuriko sighed, as the woman's face cleared and a small, admittedly nervous, smile appeared for the first time on her face.

Haru opened her mouth, but Yuriko raised her hand to interrupt. "I won't have you apologizing over and over again, Haru-san."

Shaking her head, the dresser bowed slightly. "Would you like some tea?" was all she said.

"Yes," answered Yuriko, with audible relief. "Yes, I would absolutely love some tea."

 

***

Dancing practice was grueling, but Yuriko had to admit that she and Mayumi were looking pretty good. Madame Sophia had only grunted single word corrections or, more and more, just to remind them where they were in the choreography, something that Yuriko now understood meant that she was pleased.

The two women were drenched with sweat by the end of practice. Madame Sophia allowed a look of satisfaction into her face as she announced. "This is much better, I think. Big girl, you are sharp now, more concentrating, little girl, you are more responding to your partner. Together, apart, you look like dancers." The old woman nodded as she tapped her stick thoughtfully on the ground. "Yes. Tomorrow we bring in other dancers to practice. You understand?"

Yuriko nodded. She understood. Mayumi gave no sign of having even heard, but Yuri knew that she too, understood. It was time to work with the ensemble dancers, to block out the movements of both group and stars.

"Good. We will start early tomorrow." Madame held out two pieces of paper. "This is address of place. Be there one hour earlier. We will be there all week." Yuri glanced at the paper. She didn't know the address immediately, but guessed it was a large hall or other venue with a stage.

Yuriko tugged on the hair in front of her eye. An extra hour early? Bleah. On the other hand, she could feel a little nervous thrill move through her. This, more than anything, made Yuriko feel that this tour was actually going to happen. They were leaving the cocoon, on their way to becoming butterflies.

She looked up, her eyes far away. Something inside her began to burn, something slow, filling her with heat. She had a vision of the crowd, the music, the lights, and she could feel her breath quicken. The tour was coming. Very soon now, she would be standing in front of the largest crowd of her entire life, giving everything she had to give them the best three hours of their lives. She could feel the flame inside of her grow into something palpable – a presence of its own, a desire so strong that she felt like she would explode.

Shaking her head slightly, Yuriko pulled herself together. She smiled at Madame Sophia and assured her that she'd be there. As the blonde turned to leave, she caught a brief glimpse of Mayumi's face and was surprised to see a look of burning anticipation. Involuntarily, Yuriko's hand rose to her face, wondering if she looked as hungry as Nakamura Mayumi.

***

Walking down the hallway, Yuriko found herself responding with extra enthusiasm to the usual greetings of tour and studio personnel. There was a spring in her step, and a smile on her face and, as goofy as it was, she was prepared to spend the day in shockingly good mood.

As she turned the corner to head towards her dressing room, Yuriko decided to be impetuous and make a quick detour. A few moments later, she was standing in front of the costuming department. A quick knock received a muffled answer, which she took as an affirmative. Yuri slid the door open and stuck her head in, in case they had company.

"Hello?" she called out to the apparently empty room. "I'm coming in."

"Hello!" a still-muffled voice came from the back of the room. Yuriko craned her neck, but she was unable to make out the speaker.

"Do you think you could lend me a hand?" the voice had the slightest edge of panic and Yuriko leapt forward into the room. As she stepped past the platform the costumers used, she could make out the assistant with one hand up, holding several large rolls of material off of her, as they threatened to topple, while she balanced several other items with her other hand. Yuriko jogged up and took the large rolls and shifted them backwards to lean on the wall.

"Oh, thank you!" Chieko wiped her forehead quickly with a hand. "It's my own fault, I was trying to get the one in the back, and was too lazy to move them all out of the way." She looked up at Yuriko, a good-natured smile on her face. "Amba-san is always yelling at me about it, because I end up making a bigger mess this way."

Yuriko took half of the pile from the other woman's arms, and looked around. "Where is your master today? Off? I don't believe it - she's the kind who works weekends and holidays. I'm willing to bet on it."

Chieko laughed. "You'd lose that bet!" Walking over to her work table, she dropped the materials she was carrying on an empty corner, then took the remainder from Yuriko's arms and set them on top. "She's still upset about last week, I think."

"Oh?" Yuriko looked up from where she had been thumbing through some swatches of something that felt like sandpaper, but looked very shiny.

"Oh!" Chieko blushed. "I probably shouldn't have said anything. Forget that I said it, okay?" She waved her hand to dispel interest or attention.

"You can't leave me hanging like that," Yuriko chided gently.

"It's nothing. Just that the Princess," the seamstress lowered her voice on the nickname, "and Amba had some words. It got heated. Nothing that we haven't dealt with before."

"So, Amba-san's sulking?"

Chieko laughed at that. "Hardly. She's probably hungover."

"Three days later?" Yuriko's eyebrows rose at the thought.

"No, the day after. When Amba-san goes on a bender, she really goes on a bender." The young woman leaned forward, her cheeks adorably pink. "But you did not hear that from me."

"Mum's the word." Yuriko pressed her finger to her mouth and smiled.

 

Continued

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