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Saiyuu no Ryouko: The Continuing Adventures of Yuriko
The Story So Far: Crisis in the studio has been averted, with the help of Yuriko's posse. The dress rehearsal has arrived...at last.
Volume 4, Issue 20
"Top of the Ninth"
Yuriko stared into the mirror with obvious enjoyment. Her hair, which was always fine and soft, positively glowed. The velvet jacket was lighter in feel than it looked, and she was sure that the color would flame warmly under the stage lights. Amba-san, she bowed in homage to the absent costumer, you are indeed a master at your craft.
She did a few dance steps, marveling at the fact that, despite the fact that she was poured into her pants, they moved quite freely. And her feet felt well balanced in the shoes.
She looked - and felt - damn good. Yuriko smiled at herself, wondering if she could keep this outfit after the tour was over.
"You look like a Takarazuka top star," the girl from the costume department said.
Haru nodded critically, as she tweaked Yuriko's collar. The older woman was in her element now, and she was all business. Haru pulled a memo pad out of her pocket and marked down a few notes. Ripping several pages out of the pad, she handed them to the young woman from costuming. "Please take those back to Tanaka-san." Looking up at Yuriko, she said, "It's just a few things that will make the costumes move and feel better. For instance, this cuff is slightly off-center. It might feel fine now, but as you're dancing, it'll catch on the sleeve. After a few shows it could be very annoying."
Yuriko nodded, taking this all in with interest. "I've never done anything as long term as this tour. When it's a modeling job, or a commercial, it's only a few days work, then it's over. So, thank you for taking care of me." She bowed to the older woman, who shook her head.
"It is my job, after all. I'm your dresser." Haru answered, looking distinctly pleased.
"Is that everything?" Yuriko looked around at the costume rack. Every outfit had been tried on, measured, and weighed in the dresser's eyes. The one she wore now was the one she would go out for her first set in.
"That's it." Both Haru and the young woman confirmed.
Yuriko looked at herself in the mirror once more. She did look like a Takarazuka top star. She glanced back to the satin and chiffon dress she would use for her second set and smiled. She loved the way the skirt flowed around her legs when she moved. But, she turned back to the mirror, this was sex. Her fans would swoon. More importantly, Midori would swoon. She wondered again about keeping the outfit.
"Time," the knock on the door and the assistant's irritated voice came at the same time. "Are you ready?"
Haru puffed herself up in preparation for scolding the young man for his rudeness, but Yuriko laid a hand on her shoulder.
"I'm ready." She stepped up to the door and opened it. He nodded without meeting her eyes, hurrying down the hall towards the rehearsal stage.
Yuriko stepped out into the hall, pausing for one moment. Aside from the PA's footsteps, the hall was silent. She could make out the background noise of people - on and around the stage, finalizing lighting and sound and scenery. She thought of all the many people who had worked so hard to get them to this point. And she thought that now it was up to her and Mayumi to make it all work.
Yuriko had never been immune to pre-performance jitters. No matter who the audience was, no matter what the performance, there was always a certain amount of stomach fluttering and nervousness to be expected.
As her heart began to pound, she put a hand against the wall to steady herself. Her breathing deepened, her body became warm. Her mind filled with the image of a packed arena, the sound of the music deafening, the lights blinding, and the energy hanging palpably in the air.
Taking a deep breath, she said, "Well, here I go," and let the breath out.
She walked quickly down the hall towards the stage.
Blind. She couldn't see against the glare of the spotlights. Automatically, one hand lifted to shield herself from the brilliance.
"Arm down, please. We need to do levels."
She put her arm down, but the squint remained.
"Can you turn to the right?"
The lights were just as dazzling on the right; she could feel her pupils contracting to the point of disappearing.
The discomfort was lessening now. If she looked out of the corner of her eye, she could make out people behind the lights. Lights so huge and hot that they looked like burning suns in the small room. There was no air - the heat flowed from them in waves.
"Okay, face forward. Thanks."
She stood awkwardly, not sure what to do with her hands, or where to look. She settled on a space just beyond the smallest light, into a dark corner of the room.
"That's good. Can you keep looking in that direction, but turn your body to the other side? Good."
There were voices. She could make out a few words from the melee of sound. "Tall" was one of them, and "glasses".
"Can you sit on the floor, please? Draw your knees up, cross your arms and look straight ahead?"
She did so without thinking. Her knees pulled up, she rested her chin on her arms. It was somehow a comforting position. She smiled, just slightly.
There was instant silence. She looked up at the area between the lights where the voice came from, and the sounds of many voices erupted, more loudly than before.
"Oh my god, that's perfect." One deep voice in the back of the room was audible above the others. There was a buzz of agreement, and she was asked to stand. To walk, to look back over her shoulder, to bend, to squat. The sequence of surreal, slow calisthenics took a long time. She couldn't tell how long. She looked to the side of the room where the scout stood, looking bored.
"Young lady, can I have a word with you?" The deep voice moved closer, she could see a bulky frame step forward, a dark silhouette in between the lights.
She looked around, nodding unsurely.
"She needs a lot of work," a female voice commented roughly, unapologetically.
The dark silhouette turned slightly. "What's your opinion?"
There was a protracted silence, during which she heard the murmurs of other voices.
"Like I said, it's going to take work. But she's got potential."
The dark figure turned back to face her, stepping out from between the lights. A middle-aged man in a well-cut, dark gray suit regarded her thoughtfully.
"Did you hear that, young lady? It'll take a lot of time and work. That means we'll have to make an investment in you. I like to be certain that I am not wasting my time and money. Tell me," he said, his face serious, "what do you want?"
"I'm not afraid of hard work," she said, then quickly amended it to, "I like a challenge - and I want to...I want to learn what you need me to learn." No, more than that, she thought, there was something here, something she could almost feel, almost touch - something that she could... "I want to do this," she finished, defiantly.
"Well,?" the man turned again, asking over his shoulder.
"She's got a unique look, she can sing...I think it's worth it." The woman stepped up, until she was visible. It was the older woman she had met previously. The one who had eaten her sandwich. She watched the woman cautiously as she walked in a slow circle around her.
"This isn't a get rich-quick scheme," the man's deep voice was measured. "I don't waste my time with people who end up in the bargain bin. If you join me, I'm going to work you within an inch of your life. But I think I can safely promise," he smiled quite openly. " that I'm going to make you very, very famous and rich."
The man stepped forward, his hand extended. "Welcome to the Miyamoto Talent Agency, Yuriko-kun."
She smiled back at him, her awkwardness gone. She took his hand and bowed. Standing at her full height, she looked down at the woman at her side and bowed. "I entrust myself to you completely. Please take care of me."
"I want to take this opportunity to thank you all for all the hard work you've done so far, and to apologize for any inconvenience I out you all through." Yuriko bowed deeply to the gathered staff. "I promise it won't happen again. Let's all work together to make this tour a success!"
There was a smattering of applause, and the next speech began. Last, Renzo addressed the gathered artists and crew.
"You've all been working hard up until now, and I am very, very thankful for everything you've all done. Now we are beginning the next phase and I want to ask that you all continue to work as hard as you can, 100% plus. Let's make this the most popular tour ever."
Applause and nods.
"So," Renzo said, lifting his hands to include them all, "Everyone take your places. Dress Rehearsal is about to begin."
There was a chaotic noise as everyone moved off to their positions, and non-essential staff moved into the audience. The noise settled down. Renzo's voice came over the loud speaker. "Everyone ready?"
There was a murmur of assent as hand signals went up to the control booth and affirmatives spoken into headsets. Yuriko adjusted her earpiece, gave the signal that the sound was good and moved to the center stage. Looking back over her should she shot a smile at the dancers, who responded with quick nods.
"One, two three," she called out, her voice amplified over the sound system, "Let's Go!"
The music began.
To Be Continued