Saiyuu no Ryouko: The Continuing Adventures of Yuriko
The Story So Far: A peaceful meeting on dance choreography turned into a confrontational brawl between Yuriko and Mayumi. It's almost a relief to get it out in the open, but Yuri's sure that she'll be dealing with the ripples in the pond for some time.
Volume 5, Issue 1
The conference room was unnaturally quiet. All but the most essential people had been asked to leave.
Yuriko sat, apparently at her ease, a cold pack pressed gently against her reddened cheek. Mayumi too seemed relaxed, perhaps more in control of herself than she had been in weeks. Something in her gaze spoke of a peace of mind that had been absent since the beginning of their acquaintance.
Perhaps, Yuriko thought generously, this was what had been needed all along. But upon the renewed sensation of pain as she shifted the ice pack, she reconsidered. Surely there must have been some better way than a playground brawl. She sighed. Unprofessional indeed. They both had acted like children and this was the result. She sighed again.
Renzo was, for his part, speechless. Since the room had been cleared, the director had been staring at his own clasped hands, clearly locked in a lively internal monologue. Mayumi’s manger was silent and pale faced, while her agent kept mopping sweat from his brow and upper lip.
Miyamoto had left the room to take a call, while Kishi seemed to be drifting in between this reality and another. Tsukiyama scribbled what were assumably notes, or perhaps emails on her electronic thingy, but Yuriko could not see what she was writing.
Miyamoto reentered the room with an apology. He took his place at the table without another word, casting his eyes gently over at the other side of the table. He was a large man, naturally pleasant and avuncular. Yuri was extremely glad of his presence just then.
Yuriko shifted again, pulling the cold pack away from her face. "I kind of expected you to apologize," she began, when Mayumi’s agent leapt to his feet, bowing deeply. "BUT," she continued, "I suppose you’ll never really think you did anything wrong, so there’s no point." She turned a gently reassuring gaze on Mayumi’s manager who had begun to shake slightly. "Let’s just…"
"No," Mayumi interrupted. "You’re right. I should apologize for striking you." She blinked several times, as if it had only just occurred to her. "But I’m not going to."
Yuriko’s response to this absurd statement was to laugh out loud. "Mayumi-san!" Renzo protested.
"No," the singer shook her head forcefully. "This has been a travesty from the beginning. The two of us are not suited to work together at all. I blame you," she nodded in the direction of the studio representatives. "We may be your biggest stars, but you made a bad decision. You’ll just have to live with the consequences. But we," She gestured to herself and Yuriko, "we’ll have to deal with consequences too, and that’s why I won’t apologize."
"I have to agree," Yuriko found herself saying before she could think about it. "If you put fire and water together, you can’t complain about the steam." She caught Mayumi nodding slightly out of the corner of her eye. "I’m willing to consider this over and done with. Which doesn’t mean," she emphasized the second word slightly, "that I will forgive this kind of thing ever again."
"This kind of thing will not happen again," Mayumi commented offhandedly. "Presuming you actually stick to working on the tour and stop going off on personal business." She shot a tight, cold smile across the table.
Yuriko’s mouth snapped open, then closed. "Fine."
The two singers fell silent, while the managers and agents finished the conversation in whatever way they felt the need to do so. Yuriko let her eyes close and the voices blur out for a moment. Her head hurt, her face hurt. When her eyes snapped open at the sound of her name, she realized that she had been unpleasantly close to falling asleep. Her gaze first came to rest on Mayumi’s face. Perhaps because of the fight, she too looked exhausted. Her normally tense face had relaxed a little and her eyes looked puffy and tired. Yuriko grudgingly thought that, if she ever got off her high horse, she might actually be attractive, but the habitual sneering curl of her lip ruined the effect.
Yuriko realized that Mayumi was staring back at her, her gaze as cool and disinterested as her own had been. Yuriko wondered what Mayumi saw when she looked at her like that, measuring her in the scales of her own minds. Would Mayumi think that, if only she would lose the boyish look, the vacant expression, she might be good looking? Yuriko coughed slightly to cover an inappropriate laugh at the thought. No, there was no chance that Mayumi saw anything good in her. It might have been said in anger, but her comment had been correct, she was sure of it. Nakamura Mayumi was a sociopath and all people to her were no more than tools. And she, Yuriko, had been a troublesome tool indeed, refusing to conform herself to the role she had been given.
Which would explain a lot of the antagonism, a lot of the anger. Mayumi had said right off that she did not like Yuriko. And then Yuriko refused to play second fiddle as assigned – by Mayumi of course.
And suddenly, with a dazzling moment of clarity, Yuriko realized how she could fix everything.
"I’m calling you first, because I know that you are the giant spider that lives in the center of a complex web of miscommunication and gossip. And I know that the answer to my question is ‘yes’ because you answered your phone on the second ring."
The voice on the other end of the phone laughed happily. "Of course. I would have been offended if you had gone to anyone else. And, your deduction is correct, Sherlock."
"Lovely, look, there’s something I need you to do for me…" As Yuri explained to Mariko what she needed, the other woman settled happily in for a long conversation.
"I can tell you some of what you want to know right away. She has a mother who is living, a father who is deceased. Her mother is sick and in a nursing home. She visits her on a regular basis."
Huh," Yuriko said between mouthfuls of cold barley tea. "A good daughter, who would have guessed."
"Everyone, you goose. Don’t you remember, she does those charity concerts three or four times a year?"
Yuriko nodded. "Right. I forgot, which is why I keep you around." She paused. "Among other things."
Mari’s smile was audible as she continued. "No siblings, one cousin who is in construction or building materials or something. He wants nothing to do with her. "
"Who can blame him?"
"Yes, but. She’s rich. Who couldn’t blame him? And she *is* exceptionally generous with her money. She’s got two endowments, one for children, one for seniors."
"I’m so glad I didn’t know any of this until today. If I had heard all this first, I would have been killing myself trying to be nice to her."
"And why *are* you asking all this now, so late in the game? Seems sort of silly, given what happened today?" Mari lowered her voice. "Is it true, really? She slapped you?"
"True enough as far as it goes. It’ll make a great tabloid story, I’m sorry to say."
"Ooh – I can’t wait to read it. I’ll make sure I stop by a convenience store on the way in tomorrow."
"Yes, please tell me what I said. I like to keep up on such things."
"You didn’t answer my question, Yuri."
"I don’t know the answer, Mariko."
"You’re not…you’re not going to try and meddle in her life, are you?"
"Good heavens, woman! I’m not insane. I just want to get to know the Mayumi I don’t know, I guess. I don’t really know."
"Yuri darling, are you aware that you have endowed a foundation, as well?" Mari’s tone was quite sarcastic.
"I do," came the haughty response. "I’m not completely clueless about everything. Well, not as much I used to be, anyway. Tsukiyama-san has this idiotic belief that I should be responsible for myself. I try to play along to make her feel useful."
"Say what you like, but you’re not fooling anyone, you know. Everyone knows that the hopelessly spoiled, utterly dependent idol is the façade, and that at heart, you’re completely common stock, self-reliant and resilient." Mari laughed. "Anyway, back to the question. That’s it."
"What do you mean, ‘that’s it.’?"
"I mean, that’s all I know."
"No boyfriend, husband, close female companions in the closet?"
"No, none, never heard of one. But I’ll ask around." Yuriko could hear Mari shift the phone to another ear. Her voice lowered, thrilling to the possibility of gossip. "Tell me, why did she hit you?"
Yuriko smiled brightly at the phone and her friend on the other end. "I called her a sociopath and a harpy."
"Good for you!’ Mari laughed. "It’s about time you fought back."
"It was totally worth it. Except my cheek hurts."
There was a noise in the background. "I have to go, dear. I’ll call you tonight."
"See you later."
Yuriko cut the call and immediately made another one.
"Midori? Oh, yes, sorry I’ll hold." Yuriko’s brow furrowed at the unfamiliar voice on Midori’s phone.
"Who was that?" she asked without preamble when the writer came on.
"Jealous?" Midori chuckled. "I was jealous of you having an assistant, so I’m auditioning one. Her name is," she paused just slightly, "Fuuka-san."
"Because that’s an important quality in an assistant?"
"Well, I’m not telling you. I want you to be consumed with jealousy and have to run home in the middle of the day in a rage, only to find me sitting quietly dictating a business letter to a middle-aged married woman with thick glasses and moles."
"Interesting scenario," Yuriko considered. "Will I be embarrassed and apologetic and we’ll end up making up in the time-honored fashion of all romance novels?"
"The pencil me in for next week sometime. It’ll give me time to build up a suspicious temper."
"Will do. So, why did you call me? Aren’t you supposed to be in rehearsal? Did something happen again?"
"Yes," Yuriko laughed. "Something happened."
Midori’s voice was cautious. "Oh?"
Yuriko sighed. "Let's put it this way – I've made us more famous...again."
To Be Continued
Saiyuu no Ryokou, all characters and situations copyright E. Friedman and Yurikon LLC. All Rights Reserved.