70 – Ghost of a Chance
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A lazy sort of day, gone in a flash.

That was what Sakura thought as she lightly tousled her daughter's hair as Rin slept on the couch next to her.

Staring at her, Sakura muttered, "Sweetie... You really are the best and worst thing to happen to me, aren't you?"

The mature woman tucked a strand of her light brown hair behind her ear and then sighed.

After streaming karaoke today with Hana and the Ohana, Rin had returned back to her house with Kai. Not only that though, she had returned with a fancy luxury sedan that should have cost a fortune.

At first, Sakura had been mad, thinking Kai was pitying them. But apparently it had been all due to her sweet daughter who used her savings from her new job to buy her a gift.

'I just wanted to pay you back, Mom. You've done so much for me...'

Rin's quiet and soft words still echoed in Sakura's mind.

Sakura sighed and then stood up. After tucking Rin in with a blanket and making sure she was comfortable, Sakura walked over to the kitchen to make herself a cup of tea. Filling the kettle with water and tossing in a tea bag, Sakura placed it on the stove to heat up. After that, she leaned on the nearby countertop, lost in thought.

Maybe it was because of her recent brush with death. Maybe it was because the past seemed to be catching up to her with Kai coming back. Or maybe it was just because she saw her past self in Rin's bright and cheery demeanor as she lived each day with such joy.

But Sakura couldn't help but think of the past... and how she almost gave Rin up.

While Sakura absolutely adored her sweet daughter now, that didn't always used to be the case.

Giving birth alone with no one around. Having to take care of a child when she was still basically one herself. Scrambling just to find shelter... Sakura had to grow up fast. Where others managed to enjoy their youth, Sakura had to work odd jobs and struggle on her own to provide for a baby that was forced upon her against her will.

And back then, Rin hadn't been the only one who cried herself to sleep.

Officer Takashi had helped a lot when things got too rough, making sure that the worst didn't happen. But even then, it was painful, and it wasn't just once that Sakura considered giving Rin up for adoption. Especially when she remembered the reason why she was born.

The kettle whistled, indicating the tea was ready. Sakura turned off the stove and then poured herself a cup of tea. Holding it up to her mouth, Sakura blew across it a few times to cool it down and then took a sip.

Bitter. But Sakura didn't mind. Instead, that helped her think.

Rin. Her lovely, sweet, and naive daughter that reminded Sakura all too much of how she used to be. A girl that was half of her... and half of that bastard.

But from how she acted, it seemed that Rin had inherited nothing from him.

No, that wasn't true. The ease in which her daughter picked up dancing and how she had never been ill her entire life showed that she inherited that bastard's ridiculous physical constitution.

But altogether, it seemed like Rin was completely Sakura's daughter and no one else's, at least in terms of personality and appearance.

And while it was bad to think of it like that, Sakura was glad. If Rin had looked anything like that bastard...

Sakura sighed and took another sip from her tea. "What am I even thinking about?"

The past was the past, and Rin was Rin. Even if there were 'what-ifs' and even if it had been a cruel and despair-filled early years of their lives, Sakura had managed to make it work. Not only that, but she managed to raise Rin into a kind, caring, and sweet young woman. 

Although, it seemed like Sakura working so hard in the past had rubbed off on Rin in the wrong way considering how her sweet daughter fell asleep not long after handing over the keys to the new car.

But overall, the future was bright.

Even though that demonic bastard that plunged Sakura into despair was moving, she wasn't worried anymore.

It might be unfounded. And Sakura could be completely wrong about things, just like how she misread that demonic bastard's original intentions.

But she wanted to believe.

The bright star that showed up like a bolt out of the blue and saved Rin's life. The one who was likely responsible for her cancer mysteriously vanishing overnight, even if he would never admit it. And the one who not only managed to fake the deaths of the three greatest legends in the yakuza world beneath that crazy demonic bastard's nose, but have them willingly serve under him.

John Smith.

Sakura took another sip from her tea and muttered, "I still don't know who you are, John. But you'd better not let Rin down."

Silence.

Of course. There was no one there to respond to her.

And then her phone vibrated.

Sakura jumped, almost spilling her tea. But she managed to stop herself in time before that happened. Setting the cup down on the countertop, Sakura pulled out her phone from her pocket. "Speak of the devil..."

It was an incoming call from John.

Sakura sighed and then picked up. "What's a guy like you doing calling an unmarried lady like myself so late at night, John?"

"First off, stop that. My wife will actually get upset."

Sakura quietly chuckled and then leaned back on the countertop, picking up her cup of tea. "Sorry. You're just too fun to tease."

"Again, stop. Tease Kai instead. At least that guy's single."

"Pft. As if. He's no fun."

"...Ouch."

"Hm?"

"Nothing. But anyway-"

*Impossible! You... How are you alive?*

*Yo! Long time no see, old man.*

*Hah... It seems your name wasn't unwarranted. No, did you come back to avenge her death?*

Sakura paused at the suspicious dialogue and then narrowed her eyes. "What are you doing, John? Who's there with you?"

"Ah, that." He chuckled and said, "Don't worry about it. I'm just playing a game about yakuza right now."

Sakura rolled her eyes and said, "You really have too much spare time on your hands right now, don't you? Can't you at least show your face to Sweetie? She's missed you, you know?"

"For the third time, stop. Someone overhearing this conversation would really think that you're my wife or something and that would be-"

*Eh? You call a woman this late at night and she's not your wife, Bo-*

"Oi!" John's voice grew faint, like he moved away from the phone, and he said, "Shut up!"

Sakura blinked. "...I thought you said you were playing a game?"

"It's multiplayer. And you know how much people like to troll online, don't you?"

"Ah." Sakura nodded, remembering the comments on her last article that she wrote for Gotaku. "I do."

"Anyway, I'll cut to the chase. Sakura, do you think you could write a press release for me?"

"Hm?" She paused, suddenly remembering a few requests she had received from her former clients. "I can do that. In fact, I was already contacted to write about Project MirAIs and Myth Inc. by some of my usual clients." She took a sip from her tea and said, "But why now?"

"I figured it was about time to lay the proper groundwork for this sort of thing. The rest of the current generation for Project MirAIs is roughly mapped out, but we'll be needing to start auditions for the next generation. Can't do that without having some credibility, right?"

"I see."

It was true. John's company was fairly unknown, and he also seemed to have come out of nowhere with that cutting edge technology.

Considering how frequently she had been getting emails bugging her to see if she could get in touch with someone from Myth Inc. to find out more and write an article before the holiday seasons began, it was clear that even the big tech companies right now were burning with curiosity.

This was a perfect way to settle them down before any of them did something drastic. Though...

"But why me?"

Right. John clearly had more than enough connections to find someone more credible and capable to cover such a big project. At the least, better than a free lancer like Sakura.

"Well, you won't be Rin's manager, so I have to put you on the payroll somehow."

Sakura rolled her eyes. "Be serious, John."

"Fine, fine. I read a few of your articles while I've been cooped up recently. Out of the people writing out there at the moment, I think you're the most fair in terms of reporting. Besides, isn't this the best chance to paint your beloved daughter in the best light?"

*Hey, brat. Looks like this is the chance to test your new skills.*

*Dammit, old man! You're the former chair, so take responsibility!*

*And you're the current chair, so man up!*

"Hm?" Sakura frowned. The two voices were vaguely familiar. She couldn't quite place the first one, but the second... "Is that Kai?"

John coughed. "Anyway, I'll send you the contract details and criteria by tomorrow morning. Call me back if you've got any questions or negotiations and then we can talk over the phone or something to finish it up. Okay?"

"Wait a minute! Seriously, was that-"

"'Kay thanks bye!"

The line went dead.

Sakura frowned, staring at her phone.

John wouldn't answer considering how suddenly he hung up, but Kai...

She opened her contacts and scrolled through her list. There weren't too many, mostly just work contacts, Rin, and John. But at the end, there was a new contact that she added the other day, 'Big Idiot'.

Sakura tapped on it and then waited. And waited. And then someone answered.

"S-Sakura?"

"What are you doing right now, Kai?"

"Oh I'm doing..."

The faint sound of clashing steel. Maniacal laughter in the distance.

"...Things."

Sakura raised an eyebrow. "Things?"

"Right. Business things. I'm in the middle of..."

A low thud. The sound of heavy impact and a groan in the distance.

"...A very important meeting at the moment."

Faint gunfire echoed in the distance, followed by a rapid staccato of metal clangs, almost like bells.

"...Uh huh." Sakura placed her cup down and crossed her arms. "You and John aren't doing anything stupid, right?"

"John?" Genuine confusion filled Kai's voice. "What does he have to do with this?"

"Hm? I could have sworn I... Never mind." Sakura sighed and said, "Just don't be reckless. I don't particularly care what you're doing right now, but remember that you aren't young anymore. And you have a kid."

"Thanks, Sakura. I appreciate... Hah!"

*Not bad, kid! But how about... this?*

"...The concern! But I'm fine! And I'll call you later! Busy! Night, love you!"

Sakura flushed. "Wait a minute! You can't just sneak something like that-!"

The line went dead.

Staring at her phone, Sakura cursed, her face a deep red. "Idiot."

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