Saiyuu no Ryokou: The Continuing Adventures of Yuriko
The Story So Far: On the morning of their first dress rehearsal, Yuriko must
traverse a gauntlet of women falling into her arms. From hysterical crying to
mysterious fainting, she has no idea what's going on.
Volume 4, Issue 15
Yuriko looked up at the young man in the doorway of her dressing room. She recognized him as the assistant stage manager's assistant, but could not call his name to mind. He looked very surprised to find himself walking in on three women leaning over a fourth, apparently unconscious, girl who lay limply on the sofa.
They, in turn, were equally as surprised when, without a word, he drew a plastic case from his pocket, opened it, and extracted a small cylinder. "Ammonia," he said shortly, handing it to Midori, who was closest to where he stood.
She nodded, and turned back towards the girl on the couch, snapping the glass cylinder under her nose and turning her own head when the astringent smell began to spread.
Yuriko also turned her head away for a moment. The girl coughed twice, and shifted away from the source of the odor. The blonde put a hand on Chieko's shoulder, holding her in place.
"Stay still. You collapsed…" Yuriko began, but the young woman pushed her hand away, then grabbed it in a sudden clutching motion.
Yuriko took the girl's hands in her own and made shushing noises. "Slow down, slow down."
Midori held out a cup of tea, which Chieko stared at for a solid second. When she made no move to take it, Haru took her hands firmly and placed them around the cup. "Drink," the older woman commanded. Chieko took a sip of the tea, then another, and nodded.
Haru said, "I'll go get the doctor," but was stopped by the costumer.
"No, I'm fine. I just…" she took an uneven breath. "I haven't slept in a while."
"I hate to interrupt this," the assistant stage manager's assistant snapped, "but we were just coming to find you. Where have you been – and where are the costumes?'
Chieko looked at him blankly. "Costumes? Back at the studio I suppose."
His face turned red and his mouth opened. Before he could say anything however, Yuriko stood quickly and took him by the shoulders, turning him around and leading him towards the door. "Why don't you get the doctor and we'll find out what happened?" she suggested.
The young man nodded shortly and ran off. He was clearly irritated, but unwilling to take on one of the stars of the show in a probably pointless argument.
Yuriko turned back to Chieko, who was trying to stand, unsteadily and not quite successfully. "Haru-san, can you bring some food? Chieko-san, have you eaten today?"
"What day is it?" Chieko asked, her eyes large and red in a too-pale face. Before she could receive an answer, she shook her head. "No, wait. Not since breakfast yesterday."
Haru hurried off to find food, and Yuriko seated herself at the young woman's side. Midori still had her hands wrapped around the girl's hands, making soothing noises while effectively keeping her seated on the sofa.
"Are you feeling well enough to tell us what's going on?" Yuriko asked solicitously.
Nodding, Chieko took another steadying breath. Her voice was raspy and rough; several times as she spoke, tears threatened to interrupt the flow of the story, but she held herself long enough to get her tale out.
"You remember, the other day, when you came by and Amba-san wasn't there?" Chieko looked at Yuriko for confirmation. The blonde nodded and she continued. "Well, like I said, that wasn't unusual, but then the next day she was out too. I called her at home – there wasn't an answer, but that's not all that unusual either. She doesn't like people calling her, and she had some trouble with a guy, so…" Chieko pulled herself back on track. "So I called and left a message to see if she was home sick. Normally, if she's in a bad mood or really sick, I might not hear from her, because she hates to be seen being weak." Chieko sniffed back tears. "It's because her family was so horrible…." her voice broke, and she once again forced herself back on topic. "Anyway. I came in yesterday and there still wasn't a message from her, so I decided to use my lunch break to stop by and see her. She lives by herself, so if she was really unwell…I was worried."
Chieko's face paled even further. "When I got there…." her voice petered out and she stared into the middle distance, shaking slightly.
"Chieko-san?" Midori's voice broke into her reverie.
"The door…." She stopped again.
"Yes?" Yuriko prompted.
"The door was open. Open, like the lock had been forced, broken open. And the place was…her wheelchair was on its side…." she sobbed again, hunching into herself. "I don't know where she is…" turning, she grabbed Yuriko's wrist in a rigid grip. "Help me, Yuriko-san. We have to find her! She could be hurt or....!" This last was too much for her. Chieko broke down in tears, while Midori wrapped an arm around her shoulder, trying to calm her down.
The writer looked up at Yuriko who was standing. "Call the police – they can check the hospitals."
The young woman in her arms erupted at that. "The police!" she spat. Standing she began to shriek hysterically. "They told me that they couldn't help, but it was a lie. It's because she's a foreigner. And helpless. And a woman!"
Yuriko ran forward to grab the girl and shook her hard. "Chieko-san – get a hold of yourself!" She shook her again. "Let me see what I can do." She looked down at Midori, "Can you stay with her?"
"Of course." Midori took Chieko back from the singer and seated her once again on the sofa. "Go. I'll wait here with her for the doctor."
Yuriko had her phone out and was already hitting speed dial. "I'll be right back," she said and ran out the door as fast as her long legs would carry her.
The crowd outside her dressing room door was larger than she was happy with. As Yuriko neared, they parted, watching the idol move towards the door quickly, but calmly.
Standing in the open doorway, she asked everyone to please move off, unless they had some business there. Her tone of voice was calm, but she made her displeasure quite plain. Many of the onlookers chose to take that moment to find something to do, but a few lingered. Whether they hoped to be of use, or simply wanted a thrill, Yuriko did not know. Nor did she care.
"Can I help you?" one older gentlemen offered, not craning his neck too obviously. "I am trained in first aid."
Yuriko gave him a polite smile. "Thank you, but I think we've got this under control." She glanced over her should to make sure she wasn't lying. Chieko was nibbling delicately on a sandwich, her color much improved. Midori was on the phone and Haru stood by the door, torn between taking care of the costumer's assistant and ready to scold the gathered crowd. "We'll have some professionals here in a moment, so it would be best if everyone left…"
"Out! Move away! What are you doing, standing there? Don't you have a job to do? Tanaka-san – back to work, please!" A loud, not quite shrill voice came down the hallway. Renzo was waving his arms furiously, shooing what was left of the crowd away. As he approached he took a deep breath and projected, but did not yell, "Disperse – now!" Behind him came was the red-faced assistant stage manager's hand, hanging back prudently. The final few people found reasons to leave and soon the hallway was clear.
Yuriko nodded at Renzo, and gave the young man a quick approving glance. "I've called the police. Or, rather," she corrected, "I called my agent who is calling the police. Morimoto-san can have an imposing presence when he chooses to."
"Hiiragi-kun," Renzo address the assistant. "Please go to the main entrance to accompany any police. I expect they will be here quickly," he added with an ironic tone. Turning back to Yuriko he nodded. "Thank you. I do not like the police very much, myself." His expression was one of pain. "Is there anything I can do?"
Yuriko shook her head. "I don't think so. I don't really know what I can do, but…I don't think I can usefully rehearse, either." A thought popped into her head and she looked stricken. "Oh no – what about Mayumi-san?"
Renzo put up a comforting hand. "She's not your problem. I'll bear the brunt of her displeasure. You do what you have to do. We'll put off rehearsal for today."
"I'm sorry," the blonde ran a hand through her hair, tugging on the locks that fell in front of her eye.
"Not your fault, my dear," the director reassured her.
Yuriko made a face, but her next words were interrupted by her phone and a voice from down the hall. She could see Kishi accompanied by Tsukiyama and behind them, Nami. Yuriko waved, flipped open her phone and greeted the caller. It was, as she expected, her agent's secretary calling to let her know that the police would be there shortly.
Tsukiyama spearheaded the new invasion and, after abbreviated greetings to Yuriko and Renzo, asked for an update. Yuriko did her best to summarize Chieko's story and the news that the police were on the way. When she was done, she felt a little like crying herself. Who knew where the seamstress was or in what condition? Surprising herself, Yuriko reached out and took Tsukiyama's arm in an urgent grip.
"I know that this is a bit extraordinary, but I really want to help Amba-san."
Tsukiyama nodded. "We'll do our best." She shot a glance at Kishi, who slipped into the dressing room and briskly asked what was happening with "this child." Yuriko could see Midori suppress a smile and she turned back to her new manager. "Tsukiyama-san," she began, but was interrupted by more voices.
They all turned as several men and women in blue uniforms and one of each in plain clothes walked noisily down the hall led by Hiiragi-kun, who held his chin up proudly in his role as guide.
The police had arrived.
Saiyuu no Ryokou, all characters and situations copyright E. Friedman and Yurikon LLC. All Rights Reserved.