Saiyuu no Ryokou: Adventures of Yuriko

The Story So Far: During some quiet time together, Yuriko has revealed to Midori that she is not the only important woman in her life. Tonight they face the Inquisition - they're going out to dinner with Hachi and Mariko.


Volume 1, Issue 6

"Lingua Franca"


Light piano music played in the background, filling the restaurant with song. Conversation hummed, but did not overwhelm. The four were seated with a minimum of waiting and they settled into their place with pleasure. Three French doors opened onto the street; sounds of a warm summer evening made a soft counterpoint to the music.

Hachi insisted on picking the wine and the three women deferred happily to his expertise. He spent a moment in deep thought, then placed their order. The wine, when it came, was an exceptional choice. Light, fruity, but warm and complex, like the evening light. They all congratulated Hachi on his choice and set to with pleasure.

"How did you become so knowledgeable about wines?" Midori inquired politely, as she sipped from her glass.

"I've been doing a little research," Hachi admitted. "It seemed like a," he laughed lightly at his own vanity, "like a gentlemanly thing to know."

"Well, you've succeeded brilliantly," Yuriko held up her glass in salute.

"Don't let him fool you," Mariko said to Midori. "He's been studying wines for years - he's even won awards as a wine-taster. He comes from a wine-making family."

"Really?" The writer was impressed. "I've never been able to cultivate a palate, myself."

His cheeks pink, Hachi said, "If you are genuinely interested, I can suggest a few labels to start off with."

"I'd like that." Midori smiled at the young man, whose cheeks flushed another shade darker.

Mariko gazed at Hachi with pleasure, then set her own glass down and leaned forward eagerly. "And now, Yuri - I command you to tell me all about your upcoming tour. The studio was abuzz with the news today. Is it true that you're on a double bill with Nakayama 'I put the bust back in bustier' Mayumi?"

Yuriko choked on her wine. Midori slapped her smartly on the back as the blonde gasped for breath, gripping the table with one hand, and clutching her chest with the other.

When she had regained her composure, she wheezed, "Where on earth do you get those epithets, Mari?"

Mariko grinned. "I'll be honest - I stole that one. But seriously, are you really going on tour with that woman? Every story I've ever heard about her is more horrible than the last."

Yuriko drank some water, wiped her eyes with a handkerchief and nodded. "And they're not even close to the true horribleness that is Nakayama Mayumi." With a resigned air, she shared her experiences from earlier in the day, not leaving out even their encounter in the elevator.

Midori's face was dark with anger as the blonde finished her tale. "My goodness, that...that...woman!" she said, words failing her once again.

"Well," Mariko said hopefully, after a pause, "you won't actually have to spend any time with her offstage?"

Yuriko turned cynical eyes on her friend. "No, except the interminable press outings, events, signings, shoots, we'll hardly have to see each other." She sighed, then straightened in her chair. "I don't care," she announced brightly. "I'm going on an international tour and I'm going to have a lot of fun."

They all drank to that.

"And I'll be able to hold up my end of the ordering when we visit you in Paris," Hachi joked, pouring himself more wine. "You *are* doing a show in Paris, right?"

Yuriko nodded. "That's right...Mariko, you'll have a great reason to brush up on your French. Mariko speaks extremely passable French," she explained to Midori. "The consequence of several extended years of study and some time in the country."

"That's the way to do it," the writer agreed. "I learned more Russian in my time there than I ever did in my years of studying any other language in school."

Mariko looked around the table, "You know, we're a reasonably well-rounded group here. Yuri speaks decent English," she smiled broadly, " a side effect of having had an American lover."

"Thanks for sharing, Mariko," Yuri said tartly.

Mariko laughed, completely unrepentant. "And I can get by in French, Midori-san speaks Russian...."

"And a very little Italian," Midori added with a grin. "A very, very little." She turned to Hachi. "How about you Hachigoro-san? Do you speak any other languages?"

The young man shook his head. "I never really had a head for them. I'm barely coherent in Japanese!" he laughed.

Mariko slapped him lightly on the arm. "Don't listen to him - he's just dazzled by our collective beauty and brilliance. Besides, he may not speak Upper Mesopotamian, but he knows more about food, art and wine than all of us put together." She gave Hachi a look that left no doubt in anyone's mind about her true feelings for him.

Midori turned her head to glance at Yuriko, who smiled in answer to the unspoken comment.

"It's true," Yuriko said to Midori, "he doesn't speak much about himself, but Hachigoro there has a degree in Fine Arts, as well as a bunch of really nifty kitchen utensils. Get him on the topic of pasta and he can be really garrulous."

The three women smiled as Hachi squirmed in embarrassment at all the attention.

"So," Mariko said shortly. "You were telling us about the tour. Be specific - I'm working on my souvenir list."

Yuri smiled at her friend. "Well, we'll be kicking off with two nights here in Tokyo."

"Where are you playing?"

"The Budokan." Yuriko did not try to hide the pleasure in her voice.

"That's terrific!" Mariko said, with real enthusiasm. "That's the biggest venue you've ever sung at, isn't it?"

Yuriko nodded happily. "You'll all be there, or else, too. In fact, I'm going to be inviting quite a little crowd --and we're having a party afterwards, too, at which you shall all be your charming selves."

"Of course," Mariko said graciously. "Okay, so after Budokan, then where?"

"Next we got to Hong Kong, where I do a smaller show just for my fan club." Yuriko gave a short laugh, "Actually, I'll be fan clubbed out by the end of the tour. At each show, I'll have two fans attending...there's some kind of contest running between the fan club and a bunch of radio stations."

"That sounds like fun," Hachigoro said. "Meeting a new pretty girl in every town." He laughed at the looks the three women gave him.

"'Girl' is the operative word, here. They'll be children, most likely. So, we're doing Hong Kong, Seoul, Bangkok, Singapore, Manila, Australia, that area, then moving west from there. I can't remember every city, but, hmmm," Yuriko looked upwards as she thought, "Athens, Moscow, let's see, Rome, Berlin, London, Paris," she nodded at Mariko, "and a bunch more I can't remember. Then we head for America and Canada. We've got about half a dozen cities or so there, then we come back to end up in Tokyo again."

"That sounds really exhausting," Mariko said seriously.

"It's certainly the longest itinerary I've ever had - and the longest I've ever been on tour." Yuriko said, looking into her wine glass. "But," she smiled, "think of all the great excuses I'm giving my friends for vacation! And I do like to travel. And," she smiled a little more broadly, "Ren-san has put together a really international team for the tour. This really should be great...a lot of fun."

"With the small exception of your co-star," Midori said cynically.

"Yes," Yuriko sighed. "With that one small exception."