Saiyuu no Ryokou: The Continuing Adventures of Yuriko

The Story So Far: Having adjusted on the fly to having a personal assistant, Yuriko is finding it a not unpleasant experience. But no one can help her with the harsh reality that is the upcoming tour.


Volume 4, Issue 13

"All Work and No Play"


Yuriko leaned heavily against the wall, trying desperately to get some oxygen into her lungs. She'd feel really crappy about her performance a few minutes ago, except that Mayumi was slumped over a desk, sucking in great heaving breaths, as well.

Their individual singing and dancing rehearsals had been going well, but when Renzo had them run through all the sets in full, the combined effort of doing both at once had left them hopelessly breathless and out of synch. Yuriko has missed several musical cues and the usually impeccable Mayumi has faltered in some of the more delicate dance steps.

The two singers kept their unhappiness to themselves, but the tension on the stage was palpable./

"Don't worry, don't worry!" Renzo's cheerful voice cut through the background whispers and gasps for air that were amplified by the sound system. "How convenient that the new voice coach is coming today. He'll get those lungs whipped into shape." Clapping his hands smartly, the director called for a fifteen-minute break. He stepped up to Yuriko, and placed a hand delicately on her shoulder, but addressed both women.

"Get changed and join me in the piano room as soon as you're ready."

Yuriko gave the director a watery smile and nodded then, with a groan, lifted herself away from the wall and shuffled her way to the dressing room. As she turned the corner, she could just about make out Mayumi pushing herself off the desk and angrily wiping her eyes - whether it was sweat or tears, Yuriko couldn't decide.


"So Steve will be working you to death for the next two weeks." Renzo's laugh did not fill Yuriko with confidence.

She had arrived at the small rehearsal room last, to find Mayumi in full "simper at the pretty boy mode" And although she couldn't place him, Yuri was sure that she had met the man somewhere. His light brown hair had the sun-bleached look of a career beach bum, and his eyes were an exceptionally pale grey. His smile was on full-wattage as he responded to Mayumi's flirtation, somewhat ingenuously. Yuriko wondered whether she was playing him or vice versa.

Introductions over, Steve got right down to work. The smile disappeared, leaving a sun-wrinkled face with an intense look, and a quiet, focused voice.

"Let's start with improving your breath capacity, and we'll move on to projection. I've watched tapes of both of you, you've got the basics down solid, so we're going to move right into some advanced techniques."

The Australian herded the women into the middle of the room, where two yoga mats were spread out on the floor. "We don't have a lot of time. I'm going to ask you both to practice on your own time, so we can move rapidly through the sequence." He invited them to lie down. "Have either of you ever done yoga before?"

Yuriko laughed sarcastically. Mayumi sat up, indignance and annoyance written clearly on her face.

"If this is going to be one of those meditations on my center kind of thing, I'll pass." Mayumi's voice was cold and unmoving. Yuriko privately agreed, but decided that the other woman could play the bad guy for this scene.

"It's not," Steve assured her with a light push on her shoulder to lay her back down. "I'll avoid using any foreign-sounding words, unless there is absolutely no other way to describe something."

And so, Yuriko found herself doing yogic breathing to the tone of a small bell marking the intervals. One more incredibly weird thing in a summer full of weirdness, she thought resignedly.

By the time the session was over, Yuri's stomach hurt, her back hurt, and her throat was dry. "This had better be worth it" she muttered, as she stretched to pull the kinks out of her neck and back.

Mayumi shot her a look that, had it come from another person, might have signaled agreement.

"It will be," Steve confirmed with confidence. "Practice on your own and I promise that the next time I see you, you'll already feel the difference."

Yuriko blew out an exhausted breath, but nodded. Mayumi didn't bother responding at all.


Yuriko's eyes opened quite suddenly. For a moment she had no idea where she was, or why it was dark. Then her head cleared and she could see that she was riding in her car.

Nami spoke quietly, "Did you have a nice nap?"

Yuriko rubbed her eyes, trying to figure out where and when she was. "I guess so. What time is it?"

"Nine-thirty. You have a late night live television show to do." The young woman paused, then continued. "Go back to sleep - I'll wake you when we get there."

Yuriko started to protest, but thought better of it, and closed her eyes. "I'll leave it to you," she muttered and was out in a moment.


Yuriko grimaced, as the sickly-sweet taste of the energy drink was washed away by a mouthful of green tea. She thanked her assistant, handed her the empty can and straightened her hair in the mirror.

"Why bother?" Nami smiled, "They'll redo it anyway in make-up."

"It's a girl thing - you should understand," Yuriko grinned, arranging the hair over her eye with a quick tug.

Nami had been true to her word, waking Yuriko gently but firmly, just before they had arrived at the studio where a popular live late-night talk show was filmed.

Yuriko stared into the mirror. "Are those bags under my eyes?" she wondered out loud, but decided that it was just the lighting. She hoped.

As the two women checked in with the studio security, then waited for a representative to take them to the appropriate soundstage, the blonde turned towards her assistant. "What was it like with your last client? I mean, you said it was long days, but was it TV shows and radio interviews?"

The redhead shook her head. "It was more like late-night alcohol runs and dog sitting." She turned her head from side to side, taking in their surroundings. "The only show I ever saw her do was one of those "where are they now" things they do on New Year's. You know the kind, where they drag out all the ancient has-beens they can find and show clips of them when they were popular?" Nami sighed. "It was awful. She got so drunk she fell off the sofa while they were filming." She smiled up at Yuriko, "I left the next day."

Yuriko held up her left hand, and put her right one over her heart. "I swear that I will never get falling-over drunk on TV and embarrass you."

"Please don't, or Tsukiyama-san will fire me!" Nami didn't look terribly worried at the possibility.

Their conversation was interrupted by a PA who, after droning a formulaic welcome, led them through the building.

"Type 2?" Nami suggested. Yuriko had already filled her assistant in on the "types" of Production Assistant, as defined by Mariko.

Yuriko leaned forward to address the PA. "How long have you been with the show?" she chirped, feeling the energy drink kicking in at last.

The woman looked at her morosely. "Two years last month," she said, followed by a depressed sigh.

Yuriko fell back in step with her assistant. "Type 2," she confirmed. The two hid their laughter and tried not to meet each other's gaze. Yuriko found herself relaxing a little. Then she thought about the last television interview she had participated in, and the relaxation disappeared.

It was always touch-and-go. Would the laughs be with her or at her? Would the host be welcoming or hostile? Most of all, would the crowd be receptive?

She needn't have worried. The audience for this particular show was younger than most. They were *very* receptive, whooping at her name, applauding her appearance on stage and laughing heartily at her amusing stories. The host was very pleasant and the two of them judged a short karaoke contest to her latest hit. The winner, a young man with no rhythm, but a charming smile, won two tickets to the upcoming concert. Yuriko awarded the prize with an injunction that he bring a date, because it was going to be a great romantic concert. He just blushed, as Yuriko turned towards the audience and exhorted "anyone who'd like to go on a date with this fine young man, stand up!" at which about a third of the girls and a fifth of the guys in the audience rose. Everyone laughed and applauded, and the sequence was concluded pleasantly.

When she shook hands with the host, she thanked him quite sincerely and they promised to do this again. With a wave, Yuriko left the stage to more applause and shouts. By the time she reached the green room, Yuriko felt good.

Now I remember, she thought as she joined Nami for the last leg of the day. "This is what it's all about."

The assistant looked up at her tiredly, but nodded in agreement. "Yes."

Yuriko smiled gently at the young woman and put a hand on her shoulder. "Come on" she prodded, giving Nami a gentle shove toward the door. "Let's go home."



They were being escorted back to the entrance by another morose production assistant, whose occasional uneven lurching worried them both. The poor thing looked dead on...his/her feet. Neither of them could decide whether their escort was, in fact, male or female.

Nami seemed to be reaching for words, not entirely sure how to ask her question. She looked at her watch, then back at the idol. "You've been working since 5 in the morning. It's 12:30 now, and you've got to be back in at 6. How do you do it?"

Yuriko shrugged, then smiled. "Well, for one thing, I absolutely don't look at the time very often." She laughed lightly. "And I often think about people who do construction, or who are nurses - or even mothers. I mean, they never get a break and work long hours all the time."

They reached the studio entrance. Across the barrier were a small, but loud, group of girls, a boy or two and even a few older woman. When Yuriko came out into the muggy night, they started to shout. She waved and the ambient noise grew. Waving for her assistant to stay put, the blonde loped over, took a few autograph books and signed. When one of the girls yawned, she yawned too and they all laughed at her human frailty. She thanked them all for their support, asked them to come to the concert and waved at the cameras. Then she turned and headed towards the car.

"But mostly," Yuriko said, as she closed the car door behind her and they moved off. "I think about them." She waved her hand behind her. "This is my job - making them happy for as long as I can. When they get tired of me, I'll be on one of those 'where are they now' shows." She laughed, but it was a little forced.

There was silence as Nami thought over the singer's words. As they pulled up to her apartment building, and the assistant gathered her things to get read to leave, she shook her head.

"No, I don't think so," she pronounced finally, as she swiveled one foot out of the car. "You may not be a singer, or an idol, but somehow," she smiled brightly, "I don't think that anyone will ever have to wonder where you are now."

With that thought the redhead skipped out of the car and headed into her building. Yuriko waved at her back, closed the door and told the driver, at last, to take her home.

To Be Continued

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