Saiyuu no Ryokou: The Continuing Adventures of Yuriko

The Story So Far: Yuriko knew that her life would be changing today – but not this much or this fast. She is still shell-shocked after the first meeting with her new manger, Tsukiyama Kazumi.

 

Volume 4, Issue 10

"Two-Step"

 

Yuriko's day went by in a blur of exhausting activity. Dancing and singing practice sessions were followed up quickly by a short interview with a satellite and online music video station and a few freelance reporters. Mayumi and Yuriko gushed with enthusiasm for the cameras, praising each other's talent eloquently, then waited for the tedious, yet inevitable questions with smiles set firmly on their faces.

"Yuriko-san, Is it true that you two are going out? Is your relationship with the writer Yukano Midori falling apart?"

Yuriko did not dare glance at Mayumi as she answered this. "We're not going out, no," she laughed lightly, "although with all the time we're spending in each other's arms, it might look that way!" She made herself sparkle with laughter, and hoped desperately that Mayumi would take the cue.

Mayumi did. With an expression that oozed charm, Mayumi pouted in the direction of every adolescent male in the country. "Besides, I'm still looking for the right guy." The slightest stress on the last word made her point plainly.

"Mayumi-san, can you tell us about your relationship with..."

Yuriko rolled her eyes internally. It was always like this. No matter whether it was a TV show or a new make-up line, all they ever asked about was who you were sleeping with. She set her mouth into a open and friendly smile, without gritting her teeth visibly.

She and Mayumi fielded the irrelevant, and irreverent, questions for a time. Yuriko could feel Mayumi's tension level rising - and her own blood pressure wasn't doing too well, either.

"Hey, fellas," Yuriko called out, trying to wave forward a journalist she knew, "why don't you ask us something about the tour, instead of boring stuff about our love lives?"

One of the paparazzi lifted his head from the lens of his camera for a second. "This is what sells," he replied, then leaned down and shot more frames.

"Because this is what you sell," Mayumi retorted smoothly. "If you told people about our work instead of our personal lives, they'd buy that. Until you decide to talk about that, I think I'm finished here." With a flounce of skirt and hair, the singer turned away from the cameras.

Watching her walk away, Yuriko turned back to face the press and made a small, Western style bow. With a big smile upon her face, she spun, leaping to catch up with Mayumi. She spoke over her shoulder, saying, "You know, I agree with the lady!" With a wave, she walked away from the crowd, while cameras rolled and snapped and flashes popped and questions came trailing after them.

Once out of the eye and ear of the public's representatives, Mayumi and Yuriko separated and walked to their respective dressing rooms without a word.

***

As soon as she was freed from the studio, the singer rushed off to squeeze in a session with Ruby. Her mind was not on her workout, however, and several times her trainer remonstrated with her for wandering off mid-set.

Apologetically, Yuriko finished her workout, showered, changed and ran off to a thankfully not-televised awards banquet. She turned on the smile, got as much face time as she could with as many media representatives as she could, then tried not to fall asleep as the speeches started.

She knew that days like this were few and far between, but it seemed that heaven was having just a bit too much fun at her expense, today. She kept the smile plastered on her face until the last thank you was spoken, then crashed in the back of her car.

When she finally made it back to her apartment, it was well after midnight and it was all she could do to keep her eyes open long enough to undress and fall into bed, almost crushing Midori in the process. As the writer grumpily moved over to make room for her, Yuriko pretended that she hadn't completely forgotten that her lover was now a permanent fixture in the apartment.

***

"What is it?" Midori's eyes were closed, but her hands moved the coffee mug to her lips with accuracy.

"I don't want to be accused of keeping anything from you this time." Yuriko laid plates with buttered toast and eggs on the table. "I met Kishi-san's replacement yesterday."

"Oh?" Midori's eyes were now wide open and quite alert. "And?"

"And I'm doomed." Yuriko sounded resigned. "She has all these new-fangled ideas about me making my own decisions and managing my own career. Crazy talk, of course."

"I like her already." The writer's eyes had closed again, as she thoughtfully chewed her toast.

Yuriko did not immediately reply. In the light of a fresh new morning, the idea of being the captain of her own fate did not sound as horrifying as it had in the middle of a stressful day. And for all that Tsukiyama-san appeared to use shock as a weapon - much the way Kishi-san used derision - Yuriko had a nagging suspicion that she and her new manager would get along just fine.

Eventually.

Leave it to Kishi-san to find her the best possible replacement in the nastiest possible way.

"What's *your* schedule for today?" Yuriko desperately sought distraction from her own thoughts.

"Writing in the morning - I have to get at least one more chapter done today, or my editor will have my head. But I was thinking about shopping for a new dress this afternoon. I've called and made an appointment with Adele….what?" The writer cocked her head at her lover, who was grinning like a loon at her.

"Nothing," Yuriko could not stop smiling. "Tell me that you've decided to buy curtains or new plates or something, so I can revel in the domesticity of this scene."

Midori laughed shortly. "You *could* use new curtains in the bedroom."

The smile slipped. "What's wrong with the curtains in the bedroom?"

 

***

Although she did not have to report to the practice hall this morning, Yuriko's day was hardly free. It was to begin, she had reported balefully to Midori, with a meeting at Kishi-san's office. Now she stood outside the building that was as familiar to her as her own apartment, taking a moment to compose herself.

She greeted the receptionist, who waved her into the elevator without a comment. When she reached the floor where Kishi had her office, she left the elevator, took a deep breath and strode down the hall. The door opened at her touch and she entered a room that was full to capacity. She glanced around quickly and suppressed an urge to wisecrack, "Who are all you people?" This was not the time for glibness. Today she would be as professional as possible.

Kishi stepped forward to greet her - as much as the older woman greeted anyone, ever. "You're here, good."

She took Yuriko's elbow and lead her deeper into her crowded office. Gesturing, she said, "You already know..." and launched into the names and titles of a dozen people standing or sitting around that worked for the agency. Yuriko nodded at her publicist and her two assistants, her financial manger, her contract negotiation specialist, her lawyer and his assistants and Tsukiyama. When the greetings were completed, Yuriko realized that there were two people in the room with whom she was completely unfamiliar.

Tsukiyama stepped forward and picked up the introductions. "I'd like you to meet my executive assistant, Izumi Tomoko, and...." the woman paused dramatically, then continued, "your new assistant, Nishioka Nami."

There was a pregnant silence, as the entire group waited to hear the singer's response. Everything within Yuriko rebelled at the thought of an assistant. But something in her manager's eyes told her that this was not just a whim, or a way to make her life miserable.

Yuriko knew that the next words out of her mouth would set the pace for what would either be a very good, or very bad relationship with her new manager.

"It's a pleasure to meet you," the singer managed with only the slightest hesitation. There was a collective, silent, letting out of held breaths, and Yuriko almost smiled at it. It was true, she had adamantly fought against having a personal assistant and had felt completely justified when the first one ever assigned to her had turned out to be more personal than assistant. Since then, Yuriko had made it quite plain that she would not be tethered to, or by, an assistant of any kind.

It was equally true, she thought, as the introductions were completed, that this may well be the most important day of my life.

Things were changing - the tour, her career, her manager - there were many things that would be changing in the coming days. And as much as Yuriko wanted to indulge in a fit of hysterics, to throw them all out and scream at Kishi for a solid hour, her sensible and practical nature won out. With a solid recognition of the inevitably of change and an unusual desire to be in control of it for once, Yuriko allowed herself to be led to a seat and prepared herself to discuss her career.

 

Continued

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