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Saiyuu no Ryouko: The Continuing Adventures of Yuriko
The Story So Far:
Volume 4, Issue 19
"Fit the First"
Tsukiyama seated herself on the sofa in Yuriko's dressing room with a smile and thanks. Haru bowed slightly and left to get tea. Somewhat ominously, Kishi and Tsukiyama had been waiting when Yuriko had arrived a few moments earlier. The singer had greeted her managers warmly, and apologized once again for the difficulties of the day before. Tsukiyama seemed only slightly put out by the whole thing. Kishi had merely grunted dismissively.
"That was yesterday," the older woman said, with only the slightest reproach in her voice. "It put the schedule an entire day behind. But it's over. Today you'll just have to work twice as hard."
Something in Kishi's tone made Yuriko feel oddly happy. There was a subtle acknowledgement that, despite the trouble she had put the entire production company to, Kishi had respected what Yuriko had done. However, appearances had to be maintained. Kishi could say, truthfully, that she had spoken to Yuriko about it, and in turn, Yuriko would issue a formal apology today at the beginning of practice.
Before Yuriko could think to ask, Tsukiyama added, "Two costumers have been brought in to assist your friend. Everything is here and ready for rehearsal." She shot a tight smile at the idol, which was meant to reassure her. "There will be no further discussion of removing her from the tour."
Further? Yuriko's lips tightened. She could imagine what the source of that "discussion" had been. Bowing deeply, Yuri thanked her managers once again.
While Yuriko undressed and readied for hair and makeup, Her publicist and her assistant arrived. She listened carefully as they spoke. Tsukiyama insisted that Yuriko ratify every contract, understand every nuance of every agreement and in general familiarize herself with all the business of her career. Mornings with her new manager often felt like pop quizzes at school. Yuriko dutifully regurgitated facts about residuals and fees, costs, promotion and publicity until Tsukiyama nodded curtly.
In the middle of this, Yuriko's hair and makeup person arrived. Yuriko sat herself dutifully at the mirror and allowed herself to be remade into the image they had chosen for the tour.
"Have you considered contacts?" Serena, her hair-make specialist asked for the thirtieth time, as she applied a base coat to Yuriko's face. "It'll be much easier."
"For whom?" Yuriko asked. "I have a thing about putting pieces of plastic in my eyes."
"Well, for me, for one thing. Doing makeup underneath glasses is very difficult. You're lucky I'm so good." Serena made a face, which Yuriko mimicked. "Hold it there," the stylist said.
There was a short knock on the door and it opened. Haru entered with a tray of teacups, followed closely by Midori, who shut the door behind her.
"I thought you were going to your agency today," Yuriko looked over her shoulder in surprise, but the stylist reprimanded her and she pulled herself to face front.
"I did. I'm done. We just had to run over a few contracts. I've got a full schedule while you're out gallivanting around the globe." Midori's eyes wandered as she spoke, as if her thoughts were elsewhere.
Yuriko shot a suspicious glance at the clock on the wall. There was no way Midori had made it in to her agency, had her meeting and made it here. The writer's agent was a lovely woman, but she did like to talk. The writer had never gotten out of a meeting in less than an hour by her own reckoning.
There was a reasonably comfortable interlude while Serena finished Yuriko's make up and her assistant fussed with the idol's hair. Hair was always an issue with Serena, who desperately wanted Yuriko to do *something*, anything with it. Politely, the idol refused an offer of an image makeover for what seemed to be to her the thousandth time. The stylist took her leave a bit fussily, clearly annoyed at the waste of her talent.
After what seemed to be no more than a few seconds, another knock came. The door was opened to admit one of the Production Assistants - a hyper young Type 1. He snapped a just barely civil "Thirty minutes" at Yuriko and ran off. Haru was about to close the door, when another hand reached in and held it open.
"Am I too late to watch you undress?" Mariko's grin grew brighter when she saw that Midori had preceded her. "Did you get to watch at least?"
The writer shook her head laughing. Tsukiyama kept her face carefully neutral, while Kishi just barely rolled her eyes. The publicist made her excuses and left quickly.
Yuriko quickly introduced Mariko to the women. If Tsukiyama was going to be her manager, Yuri thought, she'd better get used to this quickly. Mariko shifted quickly into professional mode as she introduced herself. Tsukiyama's attitude shifted as well when she realized that this particular intruder was a respected producer of popular - and profitable - game shows.
Yuriko stood to get the door when the next knock came, letting in a costumer - not Chieko, but another young woman, who was pulling a rack of outfits behind her.
"We'll be waiting backstage," Tsukiyama said, standing. She and Kishi bowed shortly, stepping to the door. Midori also rose.
"You can stay," Yuriko held a hand out to stop her lover, but the writer shook her head.
"I want it to be a surprise," she said. "Come on, we'll stand guard outside." Surprisingly, Mariko merely nodded and joined Midori.
"Stand guard?" Yuriko's eyes narrowed. "Mari? Why are you here? Don't you have work today?"
"I told them I'd be late," Mariko said blandly.
"Midori?" The blonde looked at all of the women in the room, suddenly realizing that there were six people there with her. Haru stood by the door, her arms crossed across her chest. Nami stood against the far wall. Kishi and Tsukiyama were just outside the door, facing down the hall.
Yuriko moved forward, through the crowd of women, whose faces had all gone hard. "What are you all here for?" she asked. "What are you protecting me from?"
The silence was awkward and pregnant.
"Well?" Yuriko looked from face to face. "Midori?" She faced her lover, forcing the woman to meet her eyes.
Midori's mouth opened, but no words were forthcoming. Instead, there was a noise from down the hall. Voices could be heard. And one voice over all, strident and unhappy. Yuriko stepped out into the hallway. Midori, Mari, Nami and Haru hastened after her, pushing past the tall idol to stand in front of her with Kishi and Tsukiyama.
Yuriko looked past her protectors to see a small army of people approaching, led by a white-faced Mayumi and her manager. They halted about five meters away. Mayumi's lips peeled away from her teeth in nothing that remotely resembled a smile. She did not bother to offer a greeting of any kind.
"Are you prepared to work today, or should I take today off too?"
Yuriko put her hand on Midori's shoulder as the writer visibly tensed.
"I'm terribly sorry about yesterday, Mayumi-san. I take full responsibility for throwing us off schedule."
"And well you should. We don't have time to be running about looking for one unimportant studio employee." Mayumi's snarl was audible.
Yuriko found her jaw tightening as she remembered Amba lying unconscious in the hospital. She stared at her co-star malevolently and swallowed down a retort that included a wish for something similar to befall her.
"Amba-san, was *beaten*..." Nami began in an angry hiss until Yuriko stopped her with a light touch on the arm.
"Hiding behind your people?" Mayumi spat nastily. "I'd expect no less. You're..." She stopped herself with a deep breath.
Yuriko stepped past her protectors and approached Mayumi. When she stood directly in front of the other woman, leaning down to emphasize her height. "I'll be on the stage in about thirty minutes."
Mayumi's eyes narrowed, but she didn't respond. For a solid minute the idols stared at each other coldly without a word.
"Try not to be late," Mayumi settled on at last, and spun on her heel, leaving Yuriko staring down at nothing.
Yuri stood up, taking a deep breath. She looked at Mayumi's manager whose dark little eyes regarded her with equal parts dislike and fear.
"Terada-san, please accept my apologies for the many inconveniences that I've caused you and Mayumi-san." Yuriko bowed deeply once more. Straightening up, she was able to make out the barest nod Terada gave her, just before she and the remainder of Mayumi's entourage turned and left the hallway.
When the sound of their passage had disappeared, Yuriko looked back over her shoulder at the six women who regarded her coolly.
"You knew that was going to happen?" she asked.
Midori took a half step forward. "We thought it was likely, yes."
With the smallest smile at the corner of her lips, Yuriko asked, "And you all coordinated?"
"No, Yuri, we did not." Mariko insisted. "We all came to the same extraordinarily obvious conclusion on our own. And it's a damn good thing that we're all smarter than you about people or you would have been alone when she came." She turned towards Haru with a small bow. "No offense meant."
"None taken," the older woman acknowledged. "There's very little the likes of me can do against the likes of her."
Yuriko smiled at that. "I'm afraid that that applies to me, as well." She looked at all six women. "My heroes."
Kishi grunted. "We'll go talk to Terada-san, but I don't think there's much she can do. That girl is out of her control."
Tsukiyama nodded. "I've got ten minutes of Renzo-san's time this morning. I'll see you out there." And with that, the two managers left them.
Nami was still shaking with anger. "If she had seen Amba, she'd never speak like that," she insisted.
"Yes, she would, because she doesn't care." Mariko's voice was as serious as Yuriko had ever heard it. Mari looked very thoughtful. "There's something wrong here."
"That's what I said!" Yuriko said. "I TOLD you that!"
Mariko shook her head. "No, that's not what I mean." But when pressed, she wouldn't say any more. The moment passed and she was all smiles again as she took her leave of them.
Midori expressed her regrets, but she had to go as well. Blushing, she admitted that she was heading over to her agency and would be in a meeting the rest of the morning. "But I'll come back after lunch."
In a moment, only Yuriko, Nami and Haru were left standing in the hallway. Yuriko turned around, to find herself staring into the eyes of a bewildered looking woman who stood in her dressing room doorway.
Who on earth?
Yuriko looked past the girl into a rack of plastic covered costumes and flushed. Of course.
"Excuse me..." the girl's voice was childlike and piping. "Are you ready to dress now?"
To Be Continued