A ripple in time and space. For a brief moment, the world itself froze. When it resumed, a man appeared in a dark alleyway.
Flawless skin, as clear as pure white jade. Golden hair in soft curls. And bright green eyes that seemed unfathomably deep, set in a handsome Western face.
The man brushed off his pristine white robe and muttered, "I'm back...?" He blinked and then took a look around.
Towering concrete buildings. The distant sounds of cars driving along the asphalt. And then people walking along the sidewalk at the far end of the alley.
The man shook his head, overcome with a wave of nostalgia. "After all these years. After so much time..." A bright grin crossed his face and he said, "I can finally use the internet again!"
He waved his hand, transforming his robes into a simple t-shirt and blue jeans. With that done, he walked off, determined to head back to his home and grab his computer to catch up on everything he had missed.
That was how the Timeless Savant returned to Earth after countless eons in the Three Realms. Of course, not even transcendent celestial beings always had things turn out the way they wished.
"Let's see... John. That was my name, right? Right. John Smith. Generic as can be, but easy to remember." The handsome blonde man muttered to himself as he made his way down the streets.
A young woman with black hair gasped and turned to stare.
The Timeless Savant, John Smith, glanced at the woman and nodded in turn.
She blushed and quickly started walking away. In her haste, she accidently bumped into the side of a building. It looked like it hurt, but she shook it off and made a quick escape.
John ignored her, still recalling his foggy memories of the past. "Let's see... I was touring China, I picked up that old jade talisman from that antique shop, and then I arrived in the Three Realms." He glanced around and said, "From the people here, it seems like I'm still in Asia... but it doesn't look to be China."
The city was similar, packed buildings and crowds of people walking around. However, the language written on the signs and drifting in the air wasn't the same.
"Seems like... Japanese?" John hummed and said, "That might be a problem."
It seemed like his dimensional calculations were correct, but he was off in his spatial coordinates. It was within the margin of error, of course. Much better than the other times in the Three Realms where he teleported into the ground or into spatial rifts.
Still, that was a minor problem. His belongings would still be in that random hotel back in Beijing and his home was all the way back in the United States.
It would definitely be possible for him to cross the seas. In fact, it would be trivial. However, the point of returning was to leave that sort of thing behind, so he was reluctant to do something like that.
"Mm..." John looked around, contemplating on the next course of action. Since he hadn't returned to where he left off, he would have to make a base here while he sorted his affairs.
A sign written in Japanese saying 'Roppongi Hills'. Some fliers on a billboard listing apartments for lease. An ATM around the corner.
Seeing the last thing, John nodded. "It'll be a bit unfair... but dire times call for dire measures."
While he had plenty of treasures at hand, such as gemstones, minerals, and ores, in the modern society of Earth, that would be harder to liquidate. At least, for the moment.
John's first priority was to obtain immediate funding. After that, he needed to pay a visit to the local government facility to forge an identity and citizenship, and then... well, he would see what to do after that.
The ATM was an ordinary one. Slightly more high tech, with a touchscreen display and voice messages, but the functions were the same.
"Hm." John tapped the display, bringing up the menu. As expected, it asked for an identification card before responding.
John continued staring at the screen, but he used his spiritual sense to scan his surroundings.
There were a few stray individuals walking around, mostly businessmen and students. A few glanced his way, but whether because they were intimidated by his foreign appearance or otherwise, they left him alone.
In short, he wasn't under heavy supervision. Realizing that, John lightly tapped the ATM screen again. But this time, he sent a thread of his spiritual energy within it.
Delicate circuitry. Sophisticated programming. But still not as complex as the universal principals or the Celestial Formations he had to deconstruct in order to kidnap the Imperial Princess.
And so, it didn't take long before the ATM started spitting out currency. 10000 Yen bills started dispensing in the tray below, forming a small pile.
This time, people started to pay attention. In the distance, John noticed a police officer make his way over.
John casually took the stack of bills, approximately fifty of them, and then made a show of drawing out a wallet from his pocket to deposit them. At the same time, he pulled out a fake card from the ATM machine and placed it in his wallet as well.
The police officer came to a stop next to John. An ordinary middle-aged man with slightly graying hair and a blue uniform. With a slight pause to brace himself, he started speaking in broken English. "Sir? You... need help?" He glanced at John's wallet and said, "Lot of money. Withdraw accident?"
John turned to face the police officer and shook his head. In fluent Japanese, he said, "I'm fine. I was thinking about renting an apartment soon and wanted to withdraw cash for a down payment."
The officer blinked, the mental gears clearly spurring to a stop at John's words. Still, his professionalism showed as the police officer nodded and responded in Japanese. "I understand. But I think you're mistaken, Sir. In Japan, we use agents to handle such things and don't handle pure cash."
"Ah." John blinked. He had forgotten about that. Earth actually had people to deal with property instead of doing trades one on one.
The police officer gave a friendly smile and said, "Would you like me to bring you to an agency?"
John nodded and said, "If you would, I would be grateful, Officer...?"
"Kimura. Kimura Takashi." The officer bowed his head.
"John Smith." John lowered his head as well and said, "I'm in your care."
Officer Kimura raised his head and said, "It's no trouble, Mister Smith. My job is to help out foreigners like yourself in times like these." Saying that, he started walking and then gestured for John to follow.
John did. But then he frowned and said, "Your job is to help out foreigners?"
Officer Kimura nodded. "There hasn't been much going on recently that needs an officer on duty. But I can't just keep my salary without making some effort, can I? That's why an old man like me is out walking the streets."
"You're not that old, Officer Kimura."
The middle-aged man laughed and said, "Thank you, Mister Smith. I appreciate your kind words. Ah." He frowned and said, "Come to think of it, the agency is a fair distance away from here. Do you mind?"
John shook his head. "I have all the time in the world, Officer Kimura. Don't worry about rushing."
Officer Kimura let out a sigh and said, "It must be nice to be young." He glanced back and said, "From your flawless Japanese... I suppose this is your graduation trip? Have you decided to move here from overseas?"
John paused and then nodded. "I'm already a citizen, but I spent a bit of time overseas for business. Looks like I forgot more than I thought I did..."
"Oh?" Officer Kimura reevaluated John and said, "Hm. You must be quite successful for one so young then."
"You could say that." John rolled his neck and said, "Overseas business is quite lucrative... but time consuming." He sighed.
"I can only imagine. But I suppose there's no place like home in Japan, is there?"
"I'll say." John looked around and said, "Japan is definitely a fun place to be in."
His memories of the place were foggy, but he remembered that most of the video games he enjoyed came from Japan. And now that he was who he was, he also had the advantage of enjoying the material at the source level too.
Officer Kimura smiled. "It's good to see that. And also to see someone as polite as yourself."
"Hm?" John frowned. "Polite? I was thinking I was actually being a bit rude, Officer Kimura."
"No, no! If anything you are being too polite. It's fine to just call Mister Kimura. And I was speaking in relative terms." He furrowed his brow and said, "Quite a few foreigners around your age arrive with the intent to stay here without even speaking proper Japanese. It can be a bit frustrating, particularly when they are overly aggressive."
"Ah." John nodded.
That was something that had been true in the Three Realms as well with the Young Masters running around. John had to put more than a few of those in their place in the past.
"But I suppose that is the trend." Officer Kimura sighed and said, "Japan is growing old, so some new blood, even foreign, is necessary. Times like these are just growing pains."
John nodded. "It should work out in the end."
"That is my hope."
After that, the conversation turned to idle matters and small talk. Officer Kimura spoke about his family, just a teenaged daughter at home after his wife passed away, and then other bits of information about recent news.
Meanwhile, John slowly started weaving his backstory while scanning people's minds as they passed by. It was fairly simple, moving to Japan in his teenaged years and then becoming an accountant in his twenties as well as gaining citizenship at 25 before heading overseas to do some business and recently returning.
He would need to do some work later to make sure the pieces made sense, mainly sneaking into the government buildings to lay down the proper foundations and manipulating the memories of a few key individuals. But nothing major.
"...Again. I am amazed at your self-sufficiency, Mister Smith."
John shook his head. "It's nothing compared to your struggles, Mister Kimura. To raise a young child, a daughter at that, all by yourself... It must be difficult."
Officer Kimura sighed. "It can be. But such is life."
The two had arrived at a looming commercial building, all glass and steel and towering into the sky.
Staring at it, John nodded and said, "I suppose this is it?"
"Ah." Officer Kimura glanced at the building and then said, "Yes. This is the agency for this district in Tokyo. If you plan to live somewhere else, you would have to speak with them, but I believe the people here can help you find who you need to speak with."
John stared at the building, making careful note of the important people inside, and then nodded. "Thank you, Mister Kimura."
"It's no problem at all, Mister Smith. Ah, and here." Officer Kimura pulled out a worn black leather wallet from his pocket and then handed John a card from it. "My contact information if you need assistance. It must be difficult to be in a foreign land without relations, so if you ever require help, feel free to contact me."
John stared at the card and smiled. "I will do so. And thank you again." He took the card and placed it in his wallet.
Officer Kimura smiled back and then he said, "With that, I'm afraid I'll have to leave you be." He glanced at a digital time display on the side of a building nearby and said, "I need to report back to my superior in an hour, so I should head back now if I want to make it." He laughed and said, "It wouldn't be good to be a lousy officer so soon after making such a good impression on you otherwise, would it?"
"That would definitely not be good."
"Then, I'll bid you leave." Officer Kimura bowed at John and said, "Until we meet again, Mister Smith. Take care of yourself!"
"You too, Mister Kimura." John waved and said, "Let's grab a beer sometime after I get things settled."
Officer Kimura waved back and then walked away.
When he vanished, John turned his attention back to the building. Specifically, he turned his attention to the sign. "Tokyo Government Agency services, huh?"
Turning around and walking towards an alley, John muttered, "Sorry, Mister Kimura. But I've been through too much to have to deal with more paperwork. Hope you don't mind too much if I take some shortcuts."