Saiyuu no Ryouko: The Continuing Adventures of Yuriko
The Story So Far: Yuriko is desperate to fight off the feeling of the tour's imminent collapse, but isn't having much luck. Rehearsals are a mess, and her own attitude isn't not helping. A visit to see Amba in the hospital might give her a new perspective.
Volume 4, Issue 24
"Tea and Sympathy"
Yuriko tried to breathe through her mouth until she acclimated to the smell of disinfectant. She thought about sticking her fingers in her ears, but since it wouldn't actually make the sounds go away and it wouldn't look very cool, she decided against it.
The nurses were very deferential, but cold and distanced. No fans here, she thought wryly. One of the younger nurses was dispatched to lead her to Amba's room, where she was left alone to make her visit.
Reaching up to knock, Yuri could hear women's voices coming from within. Reassured that she was not walking into a morgue, she knocked lightly and called out.
"Come in!" Chieko's voice reached her first, followed by Amba's more muffled voice.
The door was opened, and Yuriko found herself being greeted cheerfully by Chieko and a conscious, but still fairly bruised and beaten looking Amba. One eye was swollen almost shut and bandages were clearly visible on both head and body.
Yuriko offered the flowers she had brought, as she said the usual things one said when visiting someone in the hospital.
"You look better than the last time I saw you," Yuriko said, quite honestly.
"I'd say that I feel it, but I don't." Amba drew in a labored breath. "One advantage of being unconscious is that you can't feel the pain." Amba's voice was rough, deeper than usual and a little mushy around the edges.
"Amba-san!" Chieko said, shocked. "Stop that, please."
"Sorry," the costumer didn't look sorry, but it would have been hard to look sorry past the discoloration and swelling. Looking exactly like she was changing the subject, Amba swiveled her right hand to include the room. "I hear I have you to thank for everything."
Shaking her head, Yuriko nodded at Chieko. "You should be thanking your assistant. Without her..."
Chieko waved this away in embarrassment. "No, no," she protested. "I just did what anyone would have done." She bowed low to Yuriko, thanking her for her kindness.
"If it's all right with you, can we chat for a while?" Yuriko swiveled her gaze back and forth between the two women.
"Chi-chan...why don't you go get some coffee?" Amba cast what was meant to be interpreted as a meaningful gaze at her assistant, who took the hint immediately, nodded, thanked Yuriko again and took her leave of the two of them.
When the young woman had left, Yuri took a seat by the bedside.
"She's here all the time," Amba said regretfully. "I keep telling her that she can't do anything for me, and she has work to do, but..."
Yuriko nodded. "She cares about you."
"So," Amba was clearly changing the subject once again. "I guess you heard the news?"
Yuriko shook her head slightly. "News?"
"My prognosis." Amba leaned her head back on her pillow and gestured again with her hand. "They tell me that I'll be in a wheelchair the rest of my life."
Yuriko gaped at the tastelessness of the comment, while Amba laughed, a dry sound punctuated by wheezing breaths.
"You know," the blonde said, shaking her head. "That's the kind of comment that you can get away with, but I couldn't."
"Bloody right," Amba agreed pleasantly.
There was a long pause until, "Come on, just ask already," Amba prompted.
"You want to know if I remember anything."
Yuriko scratched her cheek, slightly embarrassed to be so obvious. "Do you?"
"Not much, and what I do remember I already told the cops. I had a disagreement with Her Highness over one of the dresses, left work and got pissed. Next thing I know, I'm here." Amba shifted, trying to find a comfortable position. "They tell me that my left arm isn't broken," she muttered, "but it damn well feels broken." After another shift of her body and a frustrated noise that clearly indicated failure, she added, "They say that I'll be fine after some physical therapy – no loss of movement or anything."
"Well, that's good, at least." She paused, trying to figure out a way to not sound voyeuristic, then gave it up and asked, "What was the fight about?"
Amba shot the singer a sharp look. "Playing detective? Waiting for me to say some small thing that I didn't realize at the time but really is the key to the whole case? Well, okay, Sherlock...it was about the color of one of the dresses. Too gold, she said. I had asked what colors to avoid, remember, it wasn't like she didn't have the chance to tell me. She never mentioned to stay away from gold. But you would have thought I was asking her to wear pink polyester with cheap plastic sequins, the way she reacted."
Anyway, after she implied that my physical infirmity echoed a mental deficiency, she stomped off, literally. Right over the gown." The costumer made a noise, but it was impossible to tell whether it was from the uncomfortable memory or her current physical discomfort. "Don't mind me, I'm going to close my eyes. I should really have a bandage over the one, but I couldn't stand the feeling."
Yuriko nodded, then followed that with a short, "please." The followed that with, "If you're getting tired I can go..."
"That's all right. I'm bored out of my mind here. Chieko reports in every day, but I've got nothing to take up my own time.... Anyway, so, I went out to a bar I know, one of those British ex-pat things where the TV plays nothing but football matches and the beer is imported. If I stay in a corner and don't make too much noise they don't mind me giving them my money. It's better than trying to get noticed at a Japanese bar, where they can't "see" me. I don't remember leaving."
"So, no memory of..."
"If Chieko-san hadn't insisted on looking for you..."
"I know it, don't think I don't."
"Amba-san, about Chieko-san...do you..." the singer paused, not sure how to put it.
"...fancy her? Yeah, a bit."
There was a profound silence, as if the costumer was waiting for a cue. When she continued, it was a bit of a non-sequitor, Yuriko thought.
"Is the door closed?" The costumer asked, with something that sounded like fear in her voice.
Amba breathed a huge sigh of relief. "This is going to sound ridiculous, but, you know I had the awful feeling just then that I was in one of those stupid evening dramas, and that Chi-chan was standing right there in the doorway. I almost expected to hear the sound of her dropping something as she discovered.... Stupid, right?" She laughed self-deprecatingly, the wheeze in her breathing very audible.
"But don't get any smart ideas about match-making," Amba lowered her voice, still worried about being overhead, the idol guessed. "I know that you're a meddler..."
"Hey," Yuriko interrupted in protest. "Who told you that?"
"Hayashi-san. She says that you can't help yourself."
Yuriko cast her mind back to a day when she had introduced Mariko to the costuming mistress and her assistant...and had added a very large bottle of sake into the mix. "Stupid Mariko," she muttered, but the other woman continued without pause.
"Look, even if she did, have some feelings for me, what would be the point? Not forgetting that I'm in a wheelchair, I'm beat up, bloody useless, right now. And when I get better...so what? I'll still be a miserable so-and-so."
Yuriko raised one eyebrow. "True."
"You were supposed to reassure me, just then," Amba pointed out dryly. "You need to work on that bedside manner."
"Yeah, but you are a miserable so-and-so."
"Mmm. True." The hand gesture again, this time to express futility. "And it could really ruin a great working relationship," she sighed. "There's no win there. Not for either of us."
"I wasn't actually asking if you liked her – I was wondering if you think she liked you," Yuriko corrected inanely. "But I guess you do, so...."
Amba sighed again. "So."
There was a noise of footsteps approaching. Standing, Yuriko opened the door and greeted Chieko, who had returned bearing two cups of tea.
"No tea for you, I'm afraid, Amba-san." Chieko said cheerfully – a mite too cheerfully, Yuriko thought.
"S'okay," the costuming mistress grumped," stuff here can't be good anyway."
The three sat and talked of inconsequentials for a while, until Yuriko could see Amba beginning to fade. Standing, Yuri made her farewells short.
"Do you mid if I walk with you?" Chieko asked, anxiously.
"I'd be delighted," Yuriko smiled down at her, gesturing for her to go first through the now open door. Looking back over her shoulder, the singer said, "I'll be back."
"Don't bother," Amba's rough voice sounded sleepy. "Just, you know, break a leg and all that." She swiveled her right hand again, and sank back into her pillows.
Yuriko smiled gently and left the room, closing the door behind her.
Saiyuu no Ryokou, all characters and situations copyright E. Friedman and Yurikon LLC. All Rights Reserved.