Saiyuu no Ryokou: The Continuing Adventures of Yuriko

The Story So Far: Midori has, temporarily moved in with Yuriko, for the brief time they have before the tour takes Yuriko away. The singer has unburdened her soul and told Midori of her troubles, but she feels no lighter. Today is the beginning of a whole new chapter in her life.

 

Volume 4, Issue 9

"Three-Quarter Time"

 

Someone's watch beeped.

"Break! Five minutes." The stage director practically ran for the exit, clearly dying for a cigarette. Yuriko wiped her face with the towel around her neck and walked over the side of the stage where Haru waited with a cup of hot tea.

"Thank you," Yuriko nodded at the older woman, sipped at the tea and studied the layout of the stage. Now that she had spent some time with the set, it was clearer to her than it had been upon her arrival hours earlier.

"Now, I know you don't have a lot of experience with big venues," the stage manager had said first thing after greeting his stars. "So we're going to try and recreate the atmosphere as closely as possible, as soon as possible. That means we only have a day or two with a quiet set. You'll both need to focus on balancing your sound and movement. We'll be setting up the A/V to recreate the set at the Dome, so you'll have a good idea how it will feel and look. I trust you to do your jobs." The man had smiled to take any acidity from his words. "Any questions?"

Yuriko had grinned at that. "And are you going to import 75,000 fans to recreate that feel, too?"

He had just smiled tightly and left them to it. Mayumi, of course, hadn't said a word. She was in a veiled-eye mode that morning. Yuriko, refusing to be cowed, had greeted her politely and moved with no special haste to her dressing room.

Now, several hours later, Mayumi seemed to be focused only on the job at hand and Yuriko watched with interest as the other singer walked through a complicated dance routine with her male dancers. The chestnut-haired singer really did move beautifully, Yuriko was forced to concede for the millionth time, as Mayumi executed a difficult pattern flawlessly.

Her own set had gone better than she had hoped, but much less good than Madame Sophia had required. While on break, Yuriko practiced some of the more difficult passages of her set, half inside her mind, half stepping around the side of the stage.

Twice she had looked up as Mayumi came close, and twice the other woman had completely failed to look at her, even though Yuriko was standing directly in the path of where Mayumi would have had to spot for her spins. Today, at least, the mouse was invisible to the snake.

***

The hours passed without commotion, filled with some of the most grueling physical effort that Yuriko had ever done in her life; repeating the same dance moves over and over, trying new angles, slightly altered motions or effects. The lighting was hot, and her eyes burned from sweat dripping into them. But aside from that, she felt good.

They broke again for a slightly longer break for lunch. Yuriko greeted the young man who carried their meals to the dressing rooms and held the door open for him, which disconcerted him entirely. She motioned for him to precede her, but he stopped in the doorway, staring. Looking past the boy, she could make out two women, now rising from their seats.

The singer thanked the boy and took her boxed lunch from him, allowing him to beat a retreat and her to enter her dressing room unobstructed.

Yuriko's eyes searched the older woman's face for some sign she could interpret, but Kishi's expression was impassionate. Her smile was the same, brief, insincere smile she had given Yuriko a thousand times before. Yuriko greeted her manager politely as she always did.

"This is Tsukiyama-san from the agency," Kishi gestured at the younger women, who now bowed deeply. Yuriko took in the woman's features. Nothing abnormal in any direction - Tsukiyama appeared to be neither exceptionally good nor bad looking. She was taller than Kishi, but not nearly as tall as Yuriko. Mid-thirties, maybe?

"Moriyama Agency's Tsukiyama Kazumi. It's a pleasure to meet you." The woman's voice was as average and unexceptional as her looks. Yuriko smiled at the woman. Her eyes were bright and sharp, and her smile only slightly more sincere than Kishi's. Yuriko bowed and introduced herself.

Kishi was speaking again, her gruff voice sounding a little strained. "Tsukiyama-san will be your new manager."

Yuriko fought back the desire to spit out infantile objections to this simple statement. She had always known this day would come eventually; she just hadn't wanted to think about it.

While she sized up Tsukiyama Kazumi, Yuriko fell back on rote platitudes of working well together, etc. etc. She could see that Tsukiyama was sizing her up at the same time. She wondered what the other woman saw, but could tell nothing from Tsukiyama's expression.

"That is," Kishi continued, "assuming you choose to stay with this agency."

"I'll stay," Yuriko answered shortly. She turned to ask Haru for some tea. The older woman shot the blonde a reproachful look and hustled away. "Moriyama Agency has been very good to me and for me. I'll stay." She gestured for the women to be seated. "Please forgive me if I eat while we speak."

Kishi gestured at her to go ahead, and clasped her hands in her lap. Yuriko was only slightly surprised that it was Tsukiyama who took up the thread of business.

"We have a lot to talk about, Yuriko-san." Again the woman flashed a professional smile that never reached her eyes.

"I suppose we do," Yuriko agreed pleasantly, but without any enthusaism.

"Yes." Tsukiyama appeared to be waiting for some kind of response from the singer.

"Like..." she took a mouthful of salad so she wouldn't be required to say more.

"Like," Tsukiyama's voice sharpened, "the fact that Kishi-san here has been coddling you for the past several years."

Yuriko blinked, lettuce hanging half out of her mouth at this absurd remark. She chewed and swallowed hastily, trying to clear both her mouth and her mind enough to frame a response.

"Under my guidance you will be much more involved in the business aspect of your career. I'll be your manager, but it is not up to me to make your contractual decisions for you. Do you even know how much you make a year?"

"Uh..." Yuriko shot a look at Kishi, who didn't flinch from her gaze, but didn't respond either.

Tsukiyama had already stated a figure. The singer pulled her eyes away from her soon-to-be-former manager to meet those of her soon-to-be-new manager and smiled a little lopsidedly. "I guess I'll have to trust you on that."

Tsukiyama's lips tightened. "No, from today on, *you'll* be in total control of your own life." The woman stood. "Things will be changing around here, Yuriko-san," she turned towards the door, then turned back, a real, and quite frightening smile on her face. "But you can trust me when I say that it will be very good for you." And with a quick bow, Tsukiyama left the dressing room, followed by a silently smirking Kishi-san.

The door closed and silence fell in the small room. Only a moment later Haru entered, carrying a tray with tea for three. She took a look around the room, noted the absence of the other two women, and the stunned looked on the blonde's face.

"What did I miss?" she asked, as she poured the tea.

"Oh, nothing," Yuriko responded blandly. "Just the napalming of my entire life."

Haru clearly had no idea what the singer meant and, after a moment in which the blonde did not clarify, took the tray and quietly left Yuriko to her own thoughts.

 

Continued

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