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Saiyuu no Ryouko: The Continuing Adventures of Yuriko
The Story So Far: After several aborted attempts, Yuriko has at last made it through a full dress rehearsal successfully. Everything's looking good, but....
Volume 4, Issue 21
"Under the Lights"
Still applauding, Yuriko stepped off the stage into the wings. Haru was there, waiting, with a cold towel and tea. With gasped thanks, Yuriko took the towel and wiped the sweat from her face, then drank the tea with intense relief.
"Thank you, thank you," she was still breathing heavily as she set the cup on the tray. "I needed that." She closed her eyes, breathing deeply, trying to settle her mind and calm her breathing as Steve had taught her.
Out of the corner of her eye, something bright red flashed into her line of vision. Yuriko turned to acknowledge her co-star, who looked quite resplendent in a scarlet evening gown, her hair piled on her head in an exquisite coif.
Yuriko put a gloved hand upon her chest and bowed in a Western fashion. Mayumi slowed looked at Yuriko for a long moment, then ever so slightly, lifted her skirt and curtseyed. It was the barest of movements, but Yuriko felt as if she had been awarded some great prize. Mayumi moved past her, to the waiting ministrations of her own dresser and entourage.
At which Yuriko began to wonder about *her* entourage. Where were her adoring and adored manager(s), her shiny new assistant? Most importantly, where was her girl? She admitted to herself that she had hoped, desired even, that Midori would be waiting there in the wings with a pile of roses and come-hither look. Seriously, she thought with some annoyance, what's the point of looking so sexy when the one person who she wanted to look sexy for wasn't there?
"I'm sorry for being late," Nami came rushing up, half bowing in apology. There's been, well, they'll tell you..." she gasped a bit, trying to catch her breath, as she looked back over her shoulder.
Following her gaze, Yuriko could see Kishi-san and Tsukiyama, followed closely by her publicist and her assistants, and the usual hangers-on of her professional career. In the back, her face a careful guarded blank, stood Midori. The writer flashed an enigmatic look at Yuriko, her lips quirking just slightly with some kind of unshared jest.
Yuri began to sweat. No matter how she looked at it, this could not be good...could it?
"I apologize for our lateness," Tsukiyama, as usual took the lead. "We've been dealing with an interesting variety of affairs this morning."
Kishi waved her hand with a curt gesture. "Your friend has regained consciousness. I went to the hospital to "assist" the police with their inquiries about the attack." The look on her face spoke volumes about how that had gone. "I managed to convince them that they ought to put a little more effort into their investigation."
Trying to not smile, Yuriko shuddered at the implication. Kishi-san was, at the very least, a formidable woman. An angry Kishi-san, with the full weight of their agency's money and connections behind her would be the match for anyone except perhaps the Prime Minister...and Yuriko wouldn't bet her life savings on him, either.
"While Kishi-san was dealing with that, I was having a long conversation with The Studio." There was something in Tsukiyama's tone that gave the words capital letters.
The sweat on Yuriko's spine went cold. She was afraid to take her eyes off her manager; for fear that everyone would be casting her looks of condolence and consolation. Tsukiyama's face was hard, her jaw set. Yuriko could feel a lump of terror settle happily into her stomach. The tea she had just drunk had left a bitter taste, and now made her feel ill.
She didn't need to be told, she could see it in Tsukiyama's face.
The tour was off.
Yuriko took a deep breath, trying to force her heart to slow down. It was pounding so hard that it hurt. Unconsciously, the blonde laid a hand against her chest, as if to press the organ into submission.
After all the hard work...after all the time and energy....
Tsukiyama's mouth opened and Yuriko braced herself for the verdict, when her manager-to-be was interrupted by a loud, bloodcurdling shriek of primal anger.
Everyone jumped. Yuriko's heart flew out of her chest, as she reached out to steady Haru, who looked as if she would pass out from fear.
"What on earth?" someone said. Looking around, Yuri belated realized that she had been the one to speak.
Pulling herself firmly under control, the singer faced her managers.
Tsukiyama had the oddest expression on her face. Her teeth were showing in something that no one would ever consider a smile. At any second, fangs might become visible, Yuri thought.
"I see that your co-star has received the news." Tsukiyama said, the expression intensifying.
Yuriko glanced around once more, noting that no one else looked particularly surprised at Tsukiyama's behavior or at the scream of bloody murder.
"Well?" Yuriko demanded, putting on the haughtiest face she could manage. "What's going on?"
"The studio management have had a long talk, and based on current levels of record sales and other measures of popularity..."
"Yes?" The joke was wearing quite thin and so was Yuri's patience.
"You're now the top bill on the tour." Tsukiyama's teeth retracted, but her eyes narrowed with an evil pleasure.
That was completely unexpected.
"That's a good thing, right?" she muttered to no one in particular.
"Not if you're Mayumi-san," someone unidentifiable in the pack of people surrounding her muttered. Yuriko had the strangest feeling that it had been Midori, but the voice had been pitched too low to be recognizable.
"It is a good thing," Tsukiyama confirmed. "We'll have to sit down and talk about how this affects things, but for the moment, you may simply want to bask in the glow of being top star."
Glow? Yuriko thought about it for a moment. Yes, there was a sort of glow-y warmth spreading through her, a feeling of having made it at last. Okay, she nodded visibly. Basking in the glow, roger that.
"Thank you," she bowed deeply to the people on whose shoulders she had risen to this spot.
When she stood, she looked past the small crowd towards backstage, her face growing just a little pale.
It was all well and good that she was now top star, but she still had to rehearse with Mayumi and from the sound of it, she hadn't taken the news well at all.
Yuriko cleared her throat, ready to ask one of her people to scout out whether the way to her dressing room was clear, when Renzo appeared. The director looked awful. He also appeared to be dripping wet.
Somberly taking a handkerchief out of his jacket pocket, he wiped his face dry, as he approached. In response to the looks he received, he made a face and said, "She did not take it well." After another moment to pat his hair dry, he carefully folded the handkerchief away. "I have been asked to inform you," Renzo's voice took on a funeral timbre, which made Nami titter, "that Mayumi-san has left for the day and will not be back. I apologize for the inconvenience." He sighed weightily. In his usual flighty tone he continued, "I swear to god, I'm never doing another tour with a straight woman again. At least with the boys, I never have to do much more than scoop up the groupies every morning and have them shown out. But at least there's no *drama.*" The last word was given every ounce of swish he could muster.
Yuriko laughed shortly. "What about the gay women?"
Renzo shook his head with a gentle smile. "Honey, you're so little trouble, I'm worried. I keep waiting for the other jackboot to drop." He thought about it for a moment, then waved his hand as if to wipe the thought out. "No, I take that back. Your need to save the entire world is trouble enough." His smile was genuine, if tired. Putting a hand on Yuriko's shoulder he said, "Go home, darling. We'll take it from the top in the morning."
Yuriko nodded and, with thanks for everyone's hard work and help, moved through the crowd to find Midori.
The writer smiled up at her, her hands rising to fix the collar of the tuxedo jacket. "You look nice."
"I do, don't I?" Yuriko murmured. "You want to go back to my dressing room and tell me again?"
"Absolutely not," Midori laughed. "I want to go home and tell you again."
Yuriko glanced out of the side of her eyes, to see that her managers had wandered away, taking most of the entourage with them. Only Haru remained close by and when she caught the singer's glance, she shot a look at her watch, muttered something unintelligible and moved off quickly.
Now, then, Yuriko thought. Sliding her arms around Midori's waist, she moved in for a kiss. "I expected to find you waiting in the wings all hot and bothered by my stellar performance"
"I was," Midori said against her cheek. "But then your people moved in."
"That's okay. You can show me what you thought of the show, now." Yuriko leaned down and touched her lips to her lover's. "And then again, later."
Midori took the blonde's face in her hands and kissed her firmly. "I hear you have the rest of the day of..." but the sentence disappeared into a long, well-earned kiss.
To Be Continued