Saiyuu no Ryokou: Adventures of Yuriko

The Story So Far: The tour is mere weeks away and Yuriko has a lot of work to do. She'd be looking forward to it, if it weren't for one or two little things.

 

Volume 1, Issue 7

"It's a Job"

 

"Are you listening?" Kishi's voice metaphorically rapped Yuriko on the knuckles and she dragged her attention back to her manager.

"Yes of course I'm listening," Yuriko lied. In fact, her thoughts were still back home in bed with Midori. They had spent all the previous day together in a haze of self-indulgent laziness, enjoying the few days they had left to them to do so. Yuriko could see the writer's face clearly in her mind as she had left the apartment.

"Stop by my place tonight, if you can. I have a little going away gift for you."

Yuriko smiled languidly, as she had at those words. Midori had laughed and said, "Not that...well, maybe that too."

Yuriko's eyes snapped open and she turned a smile rapidly fading into an embarrassed grin towards Kishi.

"Are you done fantasizing?" the older woman asked. When Yuriko nodded sheepishly, Kishi continued as if there had never been a pause. "At ten you'll meet the choreographer, at twelve, you're being measured for clothes. I'll be back by the time you're done there and we have a meeting with Haibara-san on the order of the music." She looked down at her palm pilot. "He's done your arrangements, so he knows your style. Maybe we can skip the preliminaries and move onto the stage design and setup.

"Dance rehearsal every day from now until the kickoff concert - you start singing rehearsals next week after stage blocking is done."

Kishi's voice faded in and out for Yuriko. She had trouble remaining focused on the particulars. Turning to her manager she smiled. "I'll trust you to tell me where to be."

"I *am* telling you where to be, so pay attention," Kishi's vocal knuckle rap continued. "Tonight you're free - as soon as the costumes and clothes are done, probably by Wednesday we'll have the first set, we'll start doing PR shots. You and Mayumi-hime," she used the nickname for the other singer with a wry tone, "will be at Tokyo Tower at night. Expect that for two or three nights. Hopefully two, if Her Highness cooperates."

As Kishi continued, the car pulled up to the studio gates, where Yuriko glanced out the window into a multitude of young faces. She idly wondered why they weren't at school, as three girls attempted to cross the barrier and throw themselves at the car. She smiled and waved at the fans, only peripherally hearing the shrill shrieks of pleasure her action created.

The guard waved them through the gate and the crowds receded.

***

Yuriko stared down at the wizened crone in surprise.

"Yes, now you dance for me," the voice was heavily accented, and tended towards commanding turns of phrase.

"Uh, what should I dance to?" Yuriko looked around, as if a band might materialize suddenly in the small room.

"No, no," the crone snapped, driving the end of the stick she held forcefully into the floor. "You do not dance to music." She sighed. "Sing for me, and dance. As if you are alone."

Yuriko thought this over. "Like when I'm alone?"

"Yes!" The woman nodded. "Now sing."

Yuriko's mind went blank. With the little woman's grey eyes boring into her, she was completely unable to remember a single note of a single song. In desperation, she recalled only the words from a children's song.

Yuriko took a breath, closed her eyes and began to sing the doleful tune, "Kagome, kagome..."

After a few words, Yuriko felt herself relax. The little woman seemed content to listen to her sing this song, so sing she did. Yuri let her mind wander backwards in time to her childhood, as she played the game that went along with the song. Her limbs moved of their own accord, as the tune altered slightly and the time sped up just perceptibly, which allowed her to put more energy into her motions. As the song ended Yuriko segued into a second childhood song, this one a chipper tune singing the praises of sweet potatoes. She was about to launch into another verse when a harsh voice cut her short.

"Enough!" The stick slapped against the ground again. Yuriko's eyes snapped open in surprise.

"Was that alright?" she asked pensively.

The little woman nodded, her eyes sparkling. "You are good singer and, better, a good dancer, yes? We will work well together." She nodded again. "Yes, very good. Go now and come back tomorrow."

Yuriko gazed down in amazement at the top of the iron-haired head as the woman bowed stiffly.

"You mean, that's it?" Yuriko could not keep the confusion out of her voice.

"Yes." The woman had already turned away. "Tomorrow you return and Madame Sophia will teach you to dance, yes?"

"Okay," Yuriko hesitated, but the crone was gone. She lowered her eyebrows, which were in real danger of disappearing past her hairline and left the room shaking her head.

***

Yuriko found herself facing a door marked "Costuming." She raised her hand to knock, but the door opened before she could do so, a woman stepping practically into her before drawing back in alarm.

"Oh!" The woman stood, a hand pressed to her chest. "I'm sorry!" She flipped back long hair from a cheerful, round face.

Yuriko smiled reassuringly. "It's okay, I'm fine." She looked past the woman into the room, "Um, I'm supposed to be here for measurement... this is the right room?"

A voice came from beyond the woman - deep, rough and very exotic sounding. "Ah, speak of the devil."

The woman at the door turned with a grin and said over her shoulder, "Yes, the Prince is here at last." With a laugh, she bowed slightly and gestured Yuriko into the room. She waited a moment, then said. "Amba-san will help you. If you need me, call for Chiyako, I'll come right back." She smiled again at Yuriko, then slipped out the door.

Yuriko looked around the crowded room. Racks of clothes, partially clothed dresser's dummies and bales of material vied for space with sewing tables and a large ramped platform in the middle of the room.

A dark-skinned woman waved her forward, saying, "Come on then, let's have a look at you." Her accent was rounded, with a little India and a lot of England in it. Yuriko took a few steps forward, eyeing the other woman as critically as she was being eyed. Amba sat at a sewing table, her arms resting lightly in front of her. Short, dark hair accented her sharp, high, cheek-boned features; while the front two locks made a mockery of her classic looks, as they were dyed a vivid violet. Dark eyes considered the blonde with a slight smile that gave little away.

"So?" Yuriko asked sharply. She lifted her arms. "Anything you can work with?"

Amba gave a short bark of laughter. "Could be, love," she answered in English.

Yuriko smiled and said, "But there's room for improvement?" also in English.

Amba's eyes widened slightly, but the smile didn't fade. "Ah," she spoke once again in Japanese, "our Prince is better educated than our Princess."

Yuriko's eyebrow rose inquisitively. "So you've met my co-star then," she said. It was not a question.

Amba nodded. "And a real joy she was, too." She sat back and dropped her arms to her side. "Well, then, let's see what we've got." She slid herself backwards from the table. To Yuriko's surprise, Amba's chair moved with her, as she angled sideways, the forwards. She found herself gazing down at the beautiful Indian woman, who looked back up at her from a wheelchair.

Continued