Saiyuu no Ryokou: The Continuing Adventures of Yuriko

The Story So Far: The good news is that Amba has been found; the bad news is that she has been badly beaten and is unconscious in the hospital. Despite objection from both police and doctors, Yuriko and her entourage have arrived and insist on seeing her.

 

Volume 4, Issue 17

"The Will to Live"

The door slid open. Yuriko, her hand held in a bone-crushing grip by Chieko, entered the room. She knew that Amba had only recently been moved to this private room from the public ward she had been in, but Yuriko was intensely glad that this visit was not public.

There were fewer wires and tubes than she expected; just an IV and a monitor. In the nightmare vision her mind had conjured, Amba's body would be obscured by machinery and tubes, her face only barely visible through an oxygen mask. In reality, Amba was almost completely free of impediment. And the only thing obscuring her face was a pattern of ugly, dark bruises, scabs and a large bandage over one eye.

Chieko sobbed quietly at Yuriko's side. Giving the young woman a slight push, Yuriko urged, "Go ahead."

The costumer's assistant took a hesitant step or two, then two more. The nurse came in, taking up a position across the bed from them.

"If you want to touch her, it is all right to do so," the nurse's voice was gentle. Chieko reached a hand out slowly, curling it around Amba's limp fingers.

"She's showing good physical recovery," the nurse continued. "And there's brain activity," she gestured to a monitor that bleeped in response. "But there's no response to any stimuli."

Chieko swallowed hard, visibly strengthening herself to ask, "Is there any chance she'll wake up?"

The nurse smiled. "There's always hope that she'll wake up." Her tone of voice changed slightly, addressing Chieko as one young woman to another. "People do better if there's someone there for them."

Chieko nodded. She turned to look down at her senior, tears filling her eyes once again. "Amba-san, you idiot. Who did you get angry at this time?" Still looking at Amba, Chieko turned slightly to address the idol who stood silently behind her.

"She gets in these moods, you see. Then she goes out to drink, and picks fights. Because she's a woman, and a foreigner, and in a wheelchair - people pretend she isn't there. She'd go to bars where only men go, and demand service, or visit hostess bars and argue with the management when they wouldn't serve her. I," Chieko's voice cracked with harsh laughter, "I once saw her chase two kids on bicycles who had harassed her. She rode after them for three blocks - they were pedaling away, screaming that she was crazy...." Tears fell down her cheeks, unheeded. "I told her that she'd get herself in trouble one day."

Yuriko stepped up to put her hands on the other woman's shoulders. "She'll be fine." Chieko turned and buried her face in Yuriko's chest. The blonde patted the girl, soothingly. "She'll be fine. She'll be back in her chair behind her sewing machine in no time, being as unpleasant to everyone as always. "

Chieko laughed despite the tears. "She'd better."

The nurse, using her gentle professional voice, said that they'd have to leave soon but, she continued, with a kind glance at Chieko, her name was Ishihara, and if Chieko asked for her particularly, she'd make sure that she'd get into to see Amba anytime during visiting hours.

"Your friend may not be awake yet," Ishihara said, "but I believe she can hear you - and will be glad that you're here."

"Hear me?" Chieko's cheeks filled with color. "Do you really think so?" When the nurse nodded, she turned to the idol, who nodded enthusiastically. Yuriko had no idea whether a person could hear voices from a coma, and she didn't really ever want to find out first-hand, but agreeing with the nurse seemed like the right thing to do.

"Well, then," Chieko took a deep breath and moved close to Amba's ear. "Amba-san, she spoke clearly, "you're going to owe me a lot of drinks for making me do all your work for you, And for making me worry. And Yuriko-san, too, for making me late with her costumes and making her have to go out of her way to find you. So you have to get better soon, because it's going to take you a really, really long time to pay back all the favors you owe to everyone." The young woman stood upright, tears falling beautifully down her cheeks as she smiled her thanks at the nurse. "I can come back tomorrow, right?"

Ishihara smiled. "Of course."

Chieko bowed deeply, once again thanking the nurse for her kindness. Turning, she took Yuriko's hand once more and left the room.

The hall was empty. As they closed the door behind them, Midori rounded the corner, her arms full of cans of tea, which she promptly distributed to the two women, keeping one for herself. Waving Chieko's expressions of gratitude aside, the writer asked after Amba.

"Asleep," Yuriko took it upon herself to answer. "Not brain dead or anything, just asleep."

Midori nodded in comprehension. Visibly lightening her expression she said, "Everyone's gone. The police are talking with the doctor…I think Tsukiyama-san and Kishi-san are outside discussing business. What do you want to do?" she looked up at the blonde, trying to not let her thoughts be too visible.

Yuriko spoke quietly, also working at keeping tension out of her voice. "I want to go home." She looked around, "Where's Nami-san?"

"Calling a cab..." Midori answered, just as the woman in question became visible further down the hall.

"I've called your car," Nami told the idol in a business-like tone. "It'll be here in ten minutes. I've got a cab for us," she gestured to the seamstress, "to go back to the studio. Tsukiyama-san spoke to the director. Everything's been pushed back until tomorrow."

Chieko's face flushed. "Mayumi-san won't like that."

Nami patted her gently on the arm. "She left hours ago, so don't worry about her." The redhead leaned forward slightly, speaking from one woman to another. "Her tantrum never even mentioned you, so you're safe for now, at least." A quick smile and Nami turned back to Yuriko. "Renzo-san says to have a drink on him, get some sleep and be back early."

Yuriko nodded. "That sounds like very sensible advice. In which case...." she took her leave of the two young women, threading Midori's arm through hers as they left the room where Amba lay behind them.

"How bad was it?" Midori whispered after they turned the corner.

Yuriko shook her head quickly, her eyes straight ahead. Later. She'd talk about it later. Right now, she was still on the clock and she had to hold it together.

They entered the elevator, Yuriko keeping her grip on Midori tight. They walked through the lobby quickly, trying to avoid drawing anyone's attention. At last they were on the street. Yuriko took a deep breath and approached the two women who stood on the very edge of the sidewalk with phones to their ears.

Kishi held up a hand, grunted into the phone and rang off. Tsukiyama was involved in a somewhat more complex conversation, so with a quick shake of the head and a waggle of the hand, the young manager moved off.

Kishi looked up at Yuriko, a complicated expression on her face. "You did a good thing," she offered. "The right thing."

Biting her lip to keep it from trembling, Yuriko thanked her manager and bid her farewell. "I'll see you tomorrow?" she asked, her voice thin, but steady.

Kishi's eyes flashed with something Yuriko didn't recognize. Pain? Need? "I'll be at the rehearsal hall." She nodded shortly, bowed slightly more deeply to Midori and walked off to join Tsukiyama.

The two women got into the car that sat at the curb waiting for them with the smallest sighs of relief, but they remained silent for the rest of the trip home.

The crowd of press in front of Yuriko's apartment building was larger than usual, but security held them back as singer and writer got out of the car. They put smiles on their faces, waved into the cameras cheerfully, declined to answer a single question and breathed heavily when they made the lobby.

Still in silence, they continued to the elevator and up to Yuriko's floor.

When the door had been closed and locked behind them, they once again sighed audibly. Turning and moving into Yuriko's arms, Midori laid her head on the singer's chest. Yuriko leaned down to lay her hand on the top of Midori's and, at last, began to cry.

To Be Continued

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