Saiyuu no Ryouko: The Continuing Adventures of Yuriko
The Story So Far: Yuriko has visited Amba in the hospital, where she is conscious, but has no memory of her accident. The visit has left Yuri thoughtful, but not terribly encouraged.
Volume 4, Issue 25
"Scylla and Charybdis"
Closing the door gently, Yuriko removed her shoes and sagged in the too-cool air of her apartment. The heat outside was oppressive, and the exhaustion she felt down to her bones wasn't helping much.
"I'm home," she called lightly.
"Welcome back," Midori didn't look up from her keyboard. "Let me just finish this before I forget it."
"Take your time," Yuriko dragged herself into the kitchen, where she poured herself a glass of whatever cold she could grab first from the refrigerator.
"Done," the author said a moment later, and a moment after that appeared in the kitchen area with a welcoming smile.
"Welcome home," she said again, this time reaching up for a kiss.
Yuriko let herself relax into the embrace, finding energy in herself to return the kiss with vigor.
The two women stood there for a long while, silent, arms wrapped around one another.
"How did your visit go?" Midori inquired without moving.
"Amba's coherent, grumpy and in love with her assistant." Yuriko laughed dryly. "I've already been warned off of trying to interfere. How was your visit?"
Midori sighed. "It was fine. Aoi is on some new medication, which made her a little dopey. If that doesn't go away, she'll stop taking it. She might do that anyway. She doesn't feel right when she's on meds."
"Understandable, I guess."
"Natsumi is looking for new furniture, so that was what we did. It was...bearable."
Yuriko wondered what it would be like to shop for furniture with her sister, but couldn't summon up the image. She sighed.
"Hot." Yuriko stepped out of the embrace and grabbed up her glass of what turned out to be orange juice. She drank the glass down, poured herself another one and sighed again.
"Let's dance," she said, quite suddenly.
"I'm too tired to go out," Midori began, but Yuriko shook her head and took the author into her arms.
"No, let's just dance," she said, and began humming a piece of music as she spun her lover around into the living area.
Midori laughed, following her lead gracefully.
They danced in near silence for a little while, Yuriko's quiet humming punctuated by the sound of their footsteps. Almost naturally, Yuri found herself leading Midori into one of the dance routines from her concert. It was with little surprise that she found them dancing the one that gave her so much trouble.
Her motions became almost aggressive, as she spun Midori, snapping her back into her arms for a tight embrace. Looking down at her lover, she closed the distance between them, moving in for a fierce, passionate kiss, which the black-haired beauty in her arms returned with some heat.
"Oh dear," was all Midori said as they separated.
Looking sheepishly at her lover, Yuriko could feel her face getting hot. "No kidding." She let go of Midori and brushed her face with a hand. "I think I found the problem with that dance."
Midori laughed, then her face shifted into a patently false expression of severity. "Good luck finding a solution to it that doesn't drive me into an insane jealous rage."
Yuriko rolled her eyes, then rolled her neck, and shoulders. "There is no *way* I am kissing Mayumi-san," she said without conviction.
Renzo welcomed Yuriko and her managers solemnly as they joined the director in the small conference room. At the table sat Mayumi, her manager, assistant and agent. Yuriko joined them with slight bows in their separate directions, followed by Kishi, Tsukiyama and Miyamoto, who had joined them for the meeting. Nami stood in the corner of the room, squeezing in behind Madame Sophia, who looked horribly uncomfortable and out of place sandwiched in between the gentlemen in charge of sound and the chief electrician. The room was filled to bursting and was already unbearably hot and stifling.
"Thank you all for coming," Renzo began in an unusually subdued tone of voice. "I'm sure you all know why we're here...we have a problem with one of the numbers in the final set, and we are running out of time. Today we must come up with a solution. Cutting the number is out of the question."
Out of respect for their professional skills, Renzo forbore beating them with the obvious issues of timing.
"I'm opening the floor to suggestions..." he gestured broadly.
Several eyes were turned towards the choreographer, obviously expecting her to have come up with a simple, elegant fix. But the Romanian kept her mouth stubbornly shut.
Renzo sighed unhappily. "I was watching tapes of the dance," he began, "and I think I've identified the problem. There's a moment at the climax of the dance when...."
"We should kiss."
Yuriko's mouth had been open, but she was sure that she hadn't spoken. She shut her mouth audibly, her brain spinning on the words she had been about to say, trying to identify the owner of the voice.
"Yes," Renzo replied sourly to Mayumi. "You should. Yes."
Yuri gaped at the redhead. She had *not* just said that, had she?
"So the question is, what do we do about it?" with each word, Renzo seemed to deflate, sinking in a little on himself. Yuriko could practically here his thoughts, Here it comes....
Renzo's eyes flicked from one singer to the other. Was he seriously suggesting that they kiss? Yuri had never before balked from a kiss on camera, but this... this was asking too much. Her eyes were fixed on Mayumi's pale face, waiting for the snake to strike.
"Then let's just add in a kiss. This is a waste of time," Mayumi half stood where she sat. "With all the delays we've encountered, I refuse to spend another second on this."
"Wait a second!" Yuriko snapped. "No. I mean, no – there is no way I'm going to..."
Mayumi turned a malevolent stare on Yuriko. "Too good for me? “How pathetic - you'll sleep with anyone right out in the public eye, but you'd rather see this tour go down than even pretend to press your filthy lips against mine? " Her chestnut hair bounced with each poisoned word.
"What?!?" Yuriko responded, confused; anger forcing the blood to her head.
Mayumi sneered. "Oh, right, like I don't know that it's you who have been trying to sabotage this tour from the beginning. Please, how stupid do you think I am?"
Yuriko was speechless. She gasped for air, her chest felt like a truck had parked squarely in the middle of it. "What...are you saying?"
Heedless of the uproar around them, the staff coming to their feet, trying to calm the two stars. For Yuriko, it felt like they were alone in the room, just the two of them surrounded by blackness, in which their words alone filled the space.
"Do you think I didn't notice? Madame Sophia says unkind things and *mysteriously*, she is injured. You come in early and *mysteriously* sound equipment is destroyed. Please. At least give me credit for having some intelligence. I was willing to ignore it – even when you usurped my position as headliner, all for the sake of the tour, but this...I won't forgive this. How dare you!"
"Sabotage?" Yuriko could barely make herself understand the accusation. "*You* were the one who fought with Amba-san, just before she "mysteriously" was beaten half to death!"
"Who?" Mayumi looked sincerely confused.
"Costumes?? You remember? You had a fit about the color gold?"
Mayumi's face cleared, then darkened as she remembered. "*That* was who you went running off after? I had no idea."
And, all of a sudden, Yuriko realized that Mayumi was telling the absolute truth. She had no idea who Amba was. None at all.
As if a light suddenly dawned on her, Yuriko saw the situation clearly. Mayumi could never have sabotaged the tour...she didn't have the least interest in other people. For her, other people were tools to be used, in order to carve out a career for her. Yuriko’s head spun around, trying to regain focus on the situation. Whatever she was, Mayumi was still accusing her of…
"You..." Yuriko leaned on the table, trying to breathe in the thick atmosphere. "You're a sociopath," she ground out, then, her hands pressed to her chest she muttered, "I have to get out of here."
But that was not going to be easy, with the press of bodies and the noise around her. Yuriko's request for people to move out of the way went unheard. She could feel hands clutching at her, holding her back. And behind her, a mocking voice.
"Running away again? I can't believe that that you are supposed to be the headliner." Mayumi's well-trained voice carried across the room without the slightest sign of shrillness. "Completely unprofessional." The voice was bland, uninterested, dismissive.
That was it. Yuriko stopped trying to move. Unprofessional. She'd had a lot of breaks in her career, but no one, no one told her that her hours of hard work meant nothing. She'd stood under blazing sun and freezing cold for this career and no self-important diva was ever going to make light of her hard work while she stood by and took it.
She shook off the unhelpful offers of help, the concerned cries and the crowd around her. She stood to her full height, took a deep breath and let it out as she turned around to face the person she now understood to be an implacable enemy. Walking around the table, she found the people in her way squeezing out of her way as she approached Mayumi, who returned her gaze with a sarcastic smile.
"That is enough," she said quietly, looking directly into Mayumi's face.
"Oh?" the redhead sneered. "How admirable of you."
"I'm serious." Yuriko gestured quickly at the people around, asking them to back off. Nervously, everyone shifted away from the table. “I’ve just about had all I can take from you. I really don’t care whether you’re just unbelievably rude, a complete hypocrite or certifiably insane.” At that, Mayumi jerked forward, one hand raised slightly. “Going to slap me?” Yuriko inquired with a hiss. “Go ahead. Do it. I’m not going anywhere." Her eyes narrowed, her voice rising with emotion, “I’m the headliner. I’m on this tour. I’m dancing with you. You will simply have to learn to deal with these facts. And no, I will not kiss you, you harpy, even if it means that the tour fails and ruins both our careers.”
When the slap did land, Yuriko was surprised at how sharp a pain it was. Her head whipped back, dizzying her for a moment. As she fell into the chair nearest her, the sound of the strike had just reached her ears. She spent a moment trying to focus on anything at all in the room, and felt herself grinning strangely, her hand pressed to her cheek.
"Wow," she said to no one in particular. "That really hurt."
Saiyuu no Ryokou, all characters and situations copyright E. Friedman and Yurikon LLC. All Rights Reserved.