Saiyuu no Ryouko: The Continuing Adventures of Yuriko
The Story So Far: The night before the tour, Yuriko is spending quality time with the people who mean the most to her...her fans. This is the last night her life remains the same as it has been. Tomorrow will be a whole new world.
Volume 5, Issue 8
Yuriko bowed, as the young woman was led to her table. She sat, gesturing for the other woman to do so. At first glance, Yuriko thought that her guest was younger than she, but after a moment or two, she realized that they were of an age.
The president of the fan club bowed her way out of the alcove, but not out of hearing range, to hover near the rest of Yuriko's party. She and the final contest winner were now "alone."
Yuriko opened the conversation with the usual banalities. Then she leaned forward confidentially and asked, "So, are you having fun? Looking forward to tomorrow night?"
"Of course!" the other woman, Asako, Yuriko reminded herself, squeaked. "I've never missed a show."
"Never? Wow. I'm honored."
"It's really my pleasure," Asako continued. "You're the only idol that seems to really care about her fans. Like," she paused for a moment, clearly trying to recall something. "The show you did in Hong Kong a few years ago, remember? You said you liked women in Chinese dresses, and a lot of people went out and had them made for the show that night?"
Yuriko laughed delightedly. "I do."
"Well, you noticed." Asako continued. "At the concert that night you thanked us for doing that. You noticed that we had done that. Not everyone would have,"
"You looked beautiful that night," Yuriko looked into the other woman's eyes. "You all looked like precious stones."
Asako smiled, ducking her heard quickly. "What will Yukano-san think is she knew you were saying something like that?"
"She'd probably run out and have cheongsam made."
Laughing behind her hand, Asako said, "It would serve you right."
And then their time was up. Yuriko thanked Asako for her support, shook her hand and the other woman was escorted away. Joining the rest of her party, the singer watched as the fans were ushered out of the club. She waved as the last of them passed through the door.
Then it was time to thank all of the people who had made the event possible, Normally, she would be heading out for a congratulations party, but today was an exception. Tonight was the last night she would be sleeping in her bed for 6 months.
With a feeling of euphoria, Yuriko and Midori stepped out into a warm, but pleasant evening. The dog days were passing. Tomorrow the tour would start.
"What are you thinking?" Midori asked as they got into the car that waited for them.
"Nothing. Just that tonight was fun." She smiled down at her lover.
"It was. Except the bit where you made me come up on stage." Midori shot a look at Nami, who was chuckling quietly.
"We'll be at the Dome early," Tsukiyama cut in. "I'll expect you to be waiting for us." Her habitual look of calm competence did not mask the tightness around her eyes and mouth.
"I'll be there." Yuriko assured her. "I want to get a feel for the place."
The first stop was at Kishi's apartment. Yuriko got out to walk her to the building entrance. It wasn't something she ever did, but for some reason, tonight was special.
"Thank you for everything," Yuriko said, then stopped, at a complete loss for words.
"You'll do fine." Kishi had been mostly silent the whole evening. She'd been taking less and less of an active role over the past weeks. Yuriko had tried to not notice the older woman's skin becoming gray and pinched, or her prolonged absences. Her few words now, her voice hoarse with disuse and tobacco, released some tension in Yuri that she hadn't known she had been holding in. Tears rose to her eyes.
"I'll do my best to make you proud," she said, bowing deeply.
Kishi opened her mouth as if to say something, then smiled. It wasn't a big smile, but it was genuine. With a pat on the singer's arm, she walked away and entered the building.
Yuriko watched after her for a few moments, allowing tears to come, crying silently and alone. She pulled out a handkerchief, dabbed at her eyes and returned to the car.
"Everything okay?" Midori asked her quietly.
Yuriko cleared her throat. "Everything's fine. Everything's just fine."
It was total chaos. Yuriko could barely hear herself think over the noise of machinery and voices. She walked back and forth across the stage, checking the hash marks, avoiding wires and pieces of equipment and scenery.
She looked up, saw that Mayumi had joined her on stage and greeted her somberly.
"Excited?" she asked, not expecting any kind of answer and was surprised when Mayumi said, "A little."
Yuriko approached the other woman. "I think it'll be fun, don't you?"
Mayumi laughed dryly. "I knew you were going to say that. Is there anything that you take seriously?"
"My work," Yuriko replied sharply. "Can't it be both? We're entertainers - how can you expect to be entertaining when you're not enjoying yourself?"
The other singer shook her chestnut hair out. "I don't think I'll ever understand you," she said, and walked away without another word.
Yuriko started to say something else, but then thought better of it. That may well have been, she realized, the longest non-hostile conversation the two of them had ever had.
Her thoughts were cut short, when her name was called from the wings. "You have a visitor," the assistant said, apologizing for the interruption.
"Visitor. Like hell I am," a voice came from behind a group of technicians standing in a clump.
"Excuse me?" another voice spoke, and the technicians moved awkwardly aside to allow Chieko wheel Amba through towards Yuriko.
"Amba-san!" Yuriko greeted the costumer joyfully. "You're out of the hospital? Well, obviously, you're out of the hospital. You look a lot better than when I saw you last."
"Yeah. You hadn't come by for a while, so I made them release me to come and find you myself." Amba's skin was mostly returned to its usual light brown, with only a dark spot here and there to remind anyone of the bruises that had covered her. She lifted her left arm, which sat in a sling. "It's almost fine. I wear the sling to protect people from jarring it."
"We won't be coming with you, but we wanted to say thank you," Chieko said. "And to see the concert, of course."
"I don't half care about the concert," Amba said, "I want to make sure my designs weren't screwed up. Not by you Chi-chan," the seamstress looked up and behind her quickly, "you know what I mean."
"Not a single thing was changed," Yuriko promised. "Chieko-san did a spectacular job on them. You ought to giver her a raise."
"If I could do that, she'd have gotten that and more," Amba muttered, turning her face away slightly. Yuriko grinned at her assistant over her head and was intrigued to see the girl blush slightly.
"Can you stay?" Yuriko asked.
"I've, we've, got an appointment," Chieko laughed. "I'm taking Amba-san to have her hair done. The hospital stay has turned it into a bird's nest, don't you think?" She didn't quite touch he dark locks in front of her hand. "I think she'll feel better after she's had it cut."
"Yes, that will certainly be almost as good as getting my arm back, being able to breathe again and taking a nice refreshing stroll," Amba said bitterly. "Let's stop wasting the Prince's time and get going."
Chieko made a face. "Sorry."
Yuriko waved the apology away. "I wouldn't have it any other way," she said, referring to both their previous appointment, and the costumer's dark outlook.
"I'm right here, you know," Amba sniped. "I can see you looking at each other knowingly. I'm not daft." She stopped, and smiled. "Just pissed." Then a look of surprise crossed her face. "No, wait - I'm not pissed. That's the problem. Chi-chan, forget the stupid salon. Get me to a pub."
"Of course, Amba-san, as soon as we get your hair done." Chieko soothed. "And please stop making me talk to you as if you are naughty child. It's very exhausting."
The two women made their farewells, in between sniping at one another. As they left, with promises that they wouldn't miss the show for the world, Yuriko wondered if she had just seen the best couple in the world...or the worst.
But there was no time for that. She was to meet with her managers, Nami was already headed out to meet them at the gate.
Then she and Mayumi had scheduled a short time for work on one last spot in their dual set. In one of the songs, a harmony change had been made and they wanted to work on it. Then they had a session with Steve, and a few minutes to relax and get a massage, before the next thing on what was a minutely planned schedule.
Yuriko took a deep breath, looking around the arena. Tonight, it would be filled with tens of thousands of fans. Right now it felt hollow. She gazed at the action around her, feeling just a little alone in the world. Then Midori appeared in the door, and Yuriko headed towards her.
Tonight the world would be hers.