Saiyuu no Ryouko: The Continuing Adventures of Yuriko
The Story So Far: Yuriko's day off before the tour schedule gets underway included five live appearances and a press conference. She's feeling relaxed and ready to go after her time off.
Volume 5, Issue 7
Ruby leaned close. "Give me one more set."
Yuriko grimaced as she strained against the weights. With a groan, she pressed them up, then let her arms slowly release downwards. She repeated this, each time, the final push coming more and more slowly. She forced herself to push one last time, practically screaming with the effort. As the bar came down one more time, the weight was taken off her arms and she collapsed forward.
"Good god, woman. Do you hate me?" Yuriko gasped, struggling to find the strength to take the water bottle that her trainer was offering her.
"No, I adore you. I adore all my clients. And I show it by making them work hard, so they are in the best possible shape."
"As soon as I stop shaking, I'm sure I'll appreciate it." Yuriko ran a towel across her face, neck and chest.
"You will when you're out there on the stage and you can dance without panting."
"Right." Yuriko nodded. She stood, shook her aching arms out and walked over to the next machine. "Are you sure you're going to be okay on tour?"
"I'll be fine. Since both you and Mayumi-san are clients, I'd rather be with you than worried that you are both slacking off." The trainer lifted weights effortlessly and set the peg on the machine. "I think that would bother me more than having to take six months away from home. After all, you two are my business." She gestured for Yuri to take a seat. "The studio even offered to let me bring my boyfriend, but he can't come. He's too busy with work."
"Oh?" Yuriko was intrigued. "What does he do?"
"MMA - mixed martial arts. Full contact fighting," Ruby smiled at Yuriko's puzzled expression. "It's like a mix of boxing and jiu-jitsu."
Yuriko made a face. "Professional wrestling again?"
"No, not that fake stuff. More like," Ruby thought about it. "More like gladiators without weapons."
"You mean he fights for real?" Yuriko grunted as she pulled the weight machine taught.
"He's fighting in a K-1 match in two months," Ruby said proudly.
Yuriko nodded. She had no idea what that meant, but the trainer's tone of voice indicated that it was a good thing. As she did her repetitions with the weights, she wondered about a life in which the words "fight" and "good" were compatible.
"Picture?" Yuriko asked amiably in between sets.
"Of course!" The trainer laughed. "After you give me another set."
When her session was over, as she returned from showering and changing, Yuriko found Ruby awaiting her with a beaming expression and a handful of snapshots. Yuri allowed herself to be walked through them, nodding at the unreal scenes of Ruby and her enormous Brazilian boyfriend Paolo, on the beach, flying kites, and smiling besottedly at one another over drinks with umbrellas.
"These are all from when we went to Brazil last year." Ruby supplied helpfully.
"You know," Yuriko was thoughtful, "we have at least one show in Brazil on the tour. Why not see if he can join you then? At least for a little while. It won't be until December or so - unless he has another fight?"
Ruby's eyes widened. "What a wonderful idea! I'll call him and tell him right away! Thank you!" She opened her arms and threw them around the singer, crushing the breath right out of her. "Thank you!"
"S'right," Yuriko muttered, praying that the trainer didn't break her rib.
"Good evening, everyone. Are you all having fun tonight?" Yuriko looked out over the club, at the tables filled with, mostly, young women. A few young men and one or two older women were scattered around the room.
The response of "Yes" was loud, accompanied by applause and cries of "Yuriko-sama!"
She smiled, trying to catch a few eyes here and there. "Good, good. I always want my little flowers to bloom happily." She caught the eyes of one of the women to her left. "What flower are you?" she asked.
"A lily, of course," the girl stammered, her face beet red. The audience tittered happily.
"I don't want to interrupt your dinner," Yuriko began, which prompted an outcry of "Please!" So she laughed, and bowed. "Then with your indulgence, I'd like to sing a song for you all now. It's from my last album, you might know it. It's called 'The Time of Our Lives'."
The crowd noise roared with applause and more voices shouting her name. The music rose, and she began singing the theme song of the hit show in which she had starred the previous year. The words of the song were predictable and the music syrupy. As she sang, she allowed her mind to wander slightly, seeking out one face in particular in the crowd.
"I'll never forget that moment," she sang, catching Midori's eyes in the corner when she sang, "when I first met you." Trite, but true. It had been through that show that Yuriko had first met the writer, who was posing as a Production Assistant for research in her writing.
The crowd applauded happily as the song drew to the end. She followed it up with one of the songs she would be singing on tour. Her fan club members gazed up at her in rapture and she beamed down at them. Words spoken to her by her dancing instructor came back to her. "Not just to be good," the woman had said, "but to be the best." Yes, she thought, as she brought the song to its climax. For these people, I must be the best.
She bowed deeply at the audience, announced that she was going to take a short break, but would be back in a few. She walked off the stage to more applause. Heading in the opposite direction from the table where Midori, Nami and her managers sat, Yuriko made her way around the crowd. Stopping at each table, chatting briefly with her fans.
"How are you tonight?" she asked one young man and everyone laughed with him, when he found himself at a loss for words.
"It's good to see you again," she nodded to an older woman who had been to nearly every fan club event she had ever held.
The woman nodded politely. "Thank you. You sound wonderful. I'll be there tomorrow, so keep up the good work!"
Yuriko patted the woman's shoulder and thanked her. "I will."
And so it went. Around the room, smiling, nodding, making small talk. It was exactly the same as any other function, except that these were her fans. They weren't the press, waiting for her to make a mistake or cause a scandal, and they weren't other stars, who would weigh their notoriety against hers, sucking up if she rated more attention, possibly condescending to notice her if she didn't.
She and Midori had often spoken of their fans. "Fanatics," Midori had reminded her, one day when Yuriko had been told about a series of unpleasant communications she had received from a single person who had not liked something that appeared in the press about her.
"These people aren't your friends and they aren't peers. They aren't coworkers, or team members. They know more about you than you know, and to you, they are mostly anonymous."
"I try to get to know as many as possible," Yuriko had protested.
"How many people are in your fan club?" Midori had asked pointedly.
Yuriko had had to agree that she could not even remotely become familiar with the thousands of members.
Now, as Yuriko worked the room, she could see that for some, her mere presence, her nearness, was enough to make them shake. Of course many of the gazes held longing of various kinds. Once or twice, there was a possessive quality to the looks she received that made her uncomfortable. Desire and admiration mixed equally in most.
What, she wondered, would happen, if the rules of behavior stopped for one moment. Would she be torn apart? If she were the kind of person to cultivate groupies, would any of these men or women really sleep with her, knowing she didn't really know them at all? She put that aside, and kept on greeting her fans, maintaining distance even as she cultivated familiarity.
When at last she was able to make her way back to her own table, which had been tucked into a private alcove of the club, her retinue welcomed her return cheerfully.
"What cute fans you have," Midori made a face. "I've been sitting here fighting an urge to run up to you, put my arms around you and say 'Mine!'"
Yuriko laughed. "Now you know how I felt last spring at that book signing. Every time you signed a book for a fan, I had to stop myself from punching them out."
"How butch of you." Midori threaded her arm though Yuri's, while everyone at the table quickly found something else to talk about with someone else.
"What's next on the agenda?" Yuriko asked, breaking up the awkward moment, but not releasing her lover's arm.
Nami checked the schedule. "Two more songs, and a meet and greet for the contest winners. They get to spend a few minutes alone with you."
"Right. Where's my notes?" Yuriko scanned the paper quickly. "Tell the band that I'll be ready in ten minutes."
Midori read over Yuriko's arm, as the idol memorized the half dozen winners' names and general interests.
"I've never done anything like this," Midori found it fascinating. "Author's fans are usually pleased with a nice note of thanks."
"You should try it." Yuriko pointed at one girl's name. "This one I've met before. She's pretty funny. She doesn't have that wide-eyed speechless look most of them get."
Ten minutes passed quickly. Yuriko left her group with a nod, and headed back up to the stage.
"I'm back!" she shouted against the rising tide of applause. "How was the food? Pretty good?" More applause. Yuriko bantered a little, then segued her way into the next song. It was upbeat and simple, and she had the audience sing along on the chorus.
Everyone waited breathlessly for her final song, her signature song for her fan club. "You know I've never done this song in concert, except for my fan club live events," She said. "And I want to sing it for you tonight, except before I do, there's someone I want you to meet."
The audience fell silent. There was an air of anticipation that hung over the room. "I know you've heard of her. And I hope you'll make her feel welcome, because she's very important to me." Yuriko turned towards her table, where Midori was half shaking her head. "I'd like to introduce you to the author - and my lover - Yukano Midori. Midori, will you come up here?"
As Midori stepped out of the alcove, her face clearly said, "I'll get you back for this, just you wait." The room exploded in applause.
Midori ascended the small stage, hesitating before she took the microphone from Yuriko. "Good evening," she said, "I'm at a loss for words, which is probably not a good thing for a writer." The audience laughed politely, encouraging her with their smiles. ""I don't know what to say to you except thank you, and thank you for supporting Yuriko." She handed the microphone back quickly and turned to leave the stage. Then she paused, as if having second thoughts, turned back to the blonde, reached up quickly and gave her a peck on the cheek, then hurried off the stage to scandalized giggling and clapping.
With her hand on her cheek where Midori had kissed her, Yuriko launched into the final song of her live event.
To Be Continued
Saiyuu no Ryokou, all characters and situations copyright E. Friedman and Yurikon LLC. All Rights Reserved.