73 – Hot Coffee
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"Achoo!"

From the screen, Titor glanced over and frowned. "That's twice now. You sure you didn't restrict your powers too much and catch a cold because of it?"

John frowned and said, "That's impossible and you know it."

"Then you think someone's talking about you behind your back?"

"Seems like it." John's frown deepened. 

There were an endless amount of people in the Three Realms who probably cursed him out on a daily basis. If he tried to narrow down who might be badmouthing him, he'd be stuck there until the sun suffered from heat death.

"Still," John muttered. "This is weird."

In the past day alone, he had sneezed twice. And since it for sure wasn't a cold, that meant that people were definitely talking about him behind his back.

But since he was on Earth, it definitely wasn't anyone in the Three Realms otherwise he would be constantly sneezing.

So who would be-

"Ah." John nodded. "It's probably Kai."

Considering the fact that he was getting beaten up- Er, taught by Maji on how to not die- On how to fight, John's friend was probably cursing him out under his breath.

Titor chuckled. "Well, you did go a bit overboard."

"Like hell I did." John stood up and grabbed his nearby Dk Pep, taking a long sip from the bottle. "You're supposed to tell your friends when you're the chairman of one of the most powerful yakuza groups in Japan."

"And you're not telling him that you're a transcendent why?"

John picked up the TV remote.

Titor blinked and then said, "You know that turning off the TV doesn't-"

"Night." The screen shut off, turning pitch black and cutting John Titor's feed. But...

'-Prevent me from chatting with you, you know?'

...His voice continued to sound out anyway.

"Dammit. I forgot."

'John Titor' was technically an AI, but he was actually a fragment of John's own will. Kind of like the message he sent to himself last time about Beta, only more substantial.

Which meant that turning off the TV didn't turn that guy off.

'Yep! You're stuck with me for better or worse, and you won't get rid of me because you know it's for the better.'

John groaned. "No wonder people hate me so much. I'm getting pissed off just hearing myself talk."

'It's a talent.'

"...Dammit. And I can't say anything because you're me. Annoying bastard."

'And you know it.'

John shook his head and glanced at his surroundings.

It was around 4 AM now, early Tuesday morning.

Of course, since John was downstairs in his gaming setup, there weren't any signs of that except for the digital clock display on the side telling him that night had rolled over into daytime.

'Well, since you're so frustrated, I'll leave you be to relax. In the meanwhile, I think I'll try out Ultra Marlo 64. Should be fun streaming that later and actually talking about parallel universes and worldlines.'

Leaving those words behind, John felt John Titor's presence become faint. He was still there, but in the sense like you knew there was someone else in the building.

If it was anyone else, John would be bothered about the guy peeking in and causing trouble.

But that guy was him, and he knew he'd be better than that.

...And that was a confusing thought. Maybe he should just start addressing that guy as 'Titor' and drop the 'John'. It was funny for a while, but now it was just confusing...

John leaned back in his chair, sipping on his Dk Pep to think.

Maji, Saji, and Kiri were off taking care of the yakuza side of things.

John had given them express orders to tell him the moment something too far south, but for the most part he gave them free reign. After all, they knew the place better than he did, and it also wasn't good to get directly involved too much.

Murphy's Law was apparently an actual inscribed rule of existence here and John didn't want to test just how far he could push it considering all that had happened up to this point.

No, it was better to leave that side of things to those legends.

Then that left John free to do whatever... Well, basically whatever.

The preparations were already laid down to resolve the situation when Shin came back. Ideally, it'd be best to have the yakuza world settled as well, but that could always come a bit later.

It wouldn't be the first time John had forcibly quelled a conflict between sects. And considering these guys didn't rise to the level of superhumans, it'd be simple.

Of course, that was plan Z. He would prefer to just have Maji and the others settle things on their own, maybe with Asako's involvement later.

Which left John with nothing to do. No, that was wrong. He had plenty of things to do, but he didn't feel like doing them since he knew other things were happening in the background.

John sighed and then got out of his chair. "Might as well make some coffee... maybe that'll help me calm down."

Sitting there in the dark and alone with his thoughts probably wasn't the best way to pass the time. Way too easy to just get irritated and fall back into old habits.

"Coffee it is." Nodding to himself, John went out of his way to walk to the elevator and use it to head up to the lounge.

After pressing the button, a soft chime echoed, followed by beeps as the elevator made its way down.

During that time, John closed his eyes to think.

Tuesday now... Two days left. Tomorrow and the day after. That night, he'd force Shin to come back and then handle him. After that though...

Well, he sent the information to Sakura already for the press release, so there was that. Auditions would need to be held for Project MirAIs... And hopefully Asako could help sort that out since she was should be skilled in management and internal affairs.

Another chime, signaling the elevator's arrival.

John walked into the opened doors and then turned around, pressing the button for the lounge.

As the doors slid shut, John frowned and muttered, "We definitely need to debut another few idols soon. Rin's doing well, and Titor's attracting attention with his guerilla speedrun streams, but one girl doesn't make an idol group..."

And if John wanted to fulfill Rin's dream of being an idol, he'd need more girls to join.

The elevator doors opened again, arriving at the lounge.

John absently walked forward, heading towards the coffee machine. And then he blinked when he realized someone was already standing there.

A beautiful young woman with long crimson hair and glowing orange eyes. And a familiar face as well. But she was leaning against the countertop, sipping a cup of coffee with a warm smile on her face. Not only that, but she was wearing a comfy pink sweater and loose jeans, paired with bunny slippers.

John blinked and then carefully said, "Betty?"

"E-Eh? Father?"

That confirmed it. Not that John really had any doubt, but it was nice to see his daughter relaxing. A faint smile crossed John's face and he made his way over to Beta. "Glad to see you're making yourself comfortable around here."

Beta flushed, but she smiled and nodded. "I thought it would be nice to take a small break. And Eldest Sister's outfit last time seemed comfortable, so I attempted to make something similar for myself."

"Alphy's outfit...? Ah, you mean the panda pajamas." John smiled and said, "That was pretty cute. And seeing Alphy embarrassed was fun too."

"Yes. It was rare to see Eldest Sister so flustered... though it appears such rarities are becoming commonplace these days."

John leaned on the countertop beside Beta and nodded. "That's good. You two deserve the chance to relax and unwind after everything we've been through."

Beta rolled her eyes and then said, "Like how you have been playing games nonstop since I told you to remain inside the building?"

John laughed and said, "Well, I have been waiting to play games and use the internet for countless years now. And since you handed me the chance on a silver platter-"

"You took it."

John shrugged. "Guilty as charged."

Beta sighed, seemingly frustrated. But her slightly upturned lips betrayed her emotions. Still, to hide that fact, she quickly brought her cup of coffee up to her mouth and took a sip.

John pretended he didn't see anything and walked around to check the pot of the coffee maker.

"Oh." Beta lowered her cup and said, "Did you want some, Father? I only made enough for myself, but if you would like-"

"Don't worry about it, Betty." John waved and said, "I came up here to take a break, so I don't mind waiting a bit more. Besides." John turned around after adding some more coffee grounds and water. "I get to spend some quality time with my lovely and smart daughter."

Beta rolled her eyes. "Your honeyed-tongue will get you in trouble, Father."

"Hm?" John blinked. "Did I say something wrong?"

"Yes. But you always do when it comes to women, so it is fine."

"...If you say so. But anyway... What's up?" John leaned against the countertop again and said, "Haven't seen you in... A day now? Anything new happen?"

"A day... Yes. I suppose it has only been a day. How strange..." Beta muttered.

"Betty?"

She shook her head. "Nothing, Father. I was just amusing about how the days here seem to stretch forever in comparison to those in the Three Realms." Her lips turned to a frown. "And how odd it is that such a short time period feels like an eternity." She looked back up at John and said, "Am I strange for feeling this way?"

"Of course not." John shook his head. "After all, there was never enough time back there. And there was never a time we could really relax too. But here, we're free!" John swept his arm out and said, "No worries, no damned bastards trying to steal what we have or challenge us because they're jealous... Just fun and peaceful times."

Beta snorted. "For now, perhaps. Just you wait until Mistress arrives."

John laughed. "Don't worry about that. I'm sure Yue will appreciate it too. After all, here she has a chance to be completely lovey-dovey with me without anyone judging her."

Beta paused and then narrowed her eyes, the orange orbs turning blue. "Who are you and what have you done with my father?"

John waved his hand and said, "Relax, Betty."

The coffee machine clicked, indicating the coffee was done. John walked over, pouring himself a mug of the black brew, and then he said, "I've just decided to take a look on the brighter side of things instead of worrying."

Beta looked skeptical. "...You are hiding something."

John smiled and said, "Of course I am. Wouldn't be a surprise if I wasn't, right?"

Beta blinked. "A... surprise?"

"And a secret. But I'll tell you more about that later."

After he cleaned up the yakuza and finished making all of the reservations.

John took a sip from his coffee and said, "Anyway, since Alphy's not around... is she busy playing games or something? And how's Asako?"

Beta took a sip from her coffee as well and said, "Eldest Sister is busy working on a personal project. As for Asako..." Beta hummed and said, "She is doing well. I took the opportunity to turn one of the spare floors into a residential area and gave her a room. Her wounds are recovering nicely and it will not be long until she is fully healed. It appears that her physique is one that recovers quickly from even grievous wounds."

John remembered how that Shin guy had a stab wound through his heart and nodded. "That makes sense... Then has she been any help around the office?"

Beta nodded. "She has. While only menial tasks such as sorting through the company email and tending to the front desk, Asako has been performing adequately enough. However, she will not need to do so much longer."

John nodded along to Beta's words and then paused. "Hm?" He looked at Beta and said, "Why's that?"

Beta blinked. "Because her injuries are almost healed? I estimate that you should be able to train her in dance in approximately a week. Ah, but if you have time, it would be perfectly fine to begin her vocal lessons as well."

John frowned. "Why would a manager need to sing?"

That time, Beta frowned. "...They would not? But did we hire a manager, Father?"

"...Isn't that Asako?"

Beta froze.

John blinked and then he let out a groan, realizing what happened. "Don't tell me that you told her she was going to be part of Project MirAIs?, Betty?"

Beta flushed and then said, "I-I was under the impression that was what Father meant when you said that you were bringing us a new hire..."

"No! We need support staff right now, not talent!"

Beta's flush turned into a deep red blush and she coughed. "...My apologies, Father."

John sighed and ran his hand through his hair. "She's already signed a contract, hasn't she?"

"...Yes, Father."

"Hah..." John lowered his hand and said, "Well, it's fine, I guess. One less idol to look for later. Just means that I'll have more work to do."

Beta lowered her gaze. "Again, Father. I-"

John patted her head and said, "Relax, Betty. Like I told Alphy, kids get to make mistakes. I'll clean up the mess for you."

Beta frowned. "But I-"

"No buts." John pulled his hand back and said, "Besides, I should have been more clear anyway."

It had been pretty ambiguous showing up out of the blue with Asako littered in wounds.

And while Betty was smart, it wasn't like she could have read his mind without letting her know ahead of time.

So really, this was a problem that John caused for himself again... like usual.

Sigh.

"In any case." John downed his coffee and said, "Enough worrying about that and all of the business stuff. How have you been, Betty?"

"Me?" Beta blinked. "I am fine. Why do you ask?"

John shrugged and said, "You've been working hard, so I wanted to make sure that you were doing alright. Don't be like your older sister and try to keep it in until it becomes overwhelming, alright? If there's something you need or want, just let me know."

Beta smiled and said, "You can rest assured, Father. I am well aware of my capabilities. Though speaking of Eldest Sister... I have a request."

"A request? About Alphy?" John frowned, remembering how emotional his eldest daughter had seemed while singing earlier. "...Did something happen to her?"

Beta shook her head. "Nothing of the sort. It is just... Eldest Sister wishes to ask you something and has only recently gathered up the courage to speak with you about it. Out of respect, I will not tell you exactly what it is, but I would like to request that you acknowledge and accept what she asks of you later today."

John smiled and patted Beta's head again. "You really are a caring sister, aren't you?"

She blinked and then puffed her cheeks. "Father. Stop that."

"Sorry, sorry." John pulled his hand back. "But don't worry. Even if Alphy wanted to blow up the world, I'd at least hear her out. Especially since she's finally starting to open up and enjoy life."

John paused, suddenly remembering how Alphy had acted around Asako. "But, er... She... doesn't want to do something that drastic though, does she, Betty?"

Beta placed a finger on her lips to think and tilted her head.

"B-Betty?"

If it was like that, then maybe he should head off to speak with his eldest daughter now rather than later.

Beta chuckled. "Relax, Father. The request is nothing like that."

Seeing that, John sighed. "Scared me for a bit there, Betty."

Beta smiled. "I have to keep you on your toes, Father. It would be terrible if you got swept into the flow of things and ruined the precious time we have now. Ah, and you have done a wonderful job of restraining yourself." Her eyes flashed indigo and she said, "I do not see any karma attaching to you other than what you have already caused before... and it appears that the crimson threads drifting towards you before have been severed."

"Eh?" John blinked. "Really?"

Beta nodded. "Yes. But I would not be too happy. Knowing your propensity for trouble, I would still recommend you remain inside for a while longer, at least so that the world has a chance to stabilize from your arrival. After all, such a being forcibly entering this world in the manner you did was sure to have sent fate and destiny reeling due to your existential weight."

John froze and then he facepalmed. "Right. How could I forget?"

Before John arrived, Earth was already spinning along its own path to the future with all the lives and fates perfectly set up.

And then someone like him plopped down in the middle of all that. A person who fate couldn't attach to, whose destiny he had seized with his own hands, and who karma could affect only if he wasn't paying attention to it or if he allowed it.

But not only that, he went out of his way to pull Rin away from her bad end too.

"No wonder it's such a mess..."

"Father?"

John shook his head. "Nothing, Betty. Just reflecting on my thoughtless decisions as usual." He looked up at her and said, "But I swear, things would be such a mess without you here."

Beta nodded. "It would indeed." She smiled and said, "But I am, and so it is not."

John sighed. "I kind of wish that wasn't the case though... I should really be more responsible and let you and Alphy have fun instead of helping me out so much."

"It is fine, Father. That is not in your nature... or any of the others in our family at that. Moreover..." Beta smiled and said, "I am happy to be depended on."

John's eyes widened at the bright smile and then he sighed. "You're too pure for this world, Betty."

"Considering my core and the materials that Father used to create me, it would be odd if I was not."

John lightly tugged Beta's cheek and said, "Being witty now, are we?"

"Considering Father's usual lack of such, I have to compensate for it somehow."

John laughed and lowered his hand.

Beta smiled and poured herself some more coffee.

"Ah." John paused, suddenly remembering something. "That reminds me. Is there anything that you want, Betty?"

"Hm?" Beta turned back to her father and said, "What do you mean?"

"Well you've been working non-stop. And as much as I hate to say it, you're a big reason of why everything is still going so you won't be able to take a real break for a while yet. But I feel bad about that... so is there something you want me to get for you to make up for it?"

Beta blinked and then smiled. "I appreciate the sentiment, Father. But you have already given me everything I could ever ask for."

John shook his head. "Don't be like that. It's alright to be a bit selfish. I mean, I'm already going to give Alphy something she wants soon too, so it wouldn't be fair if you didn't get something as well, right?"

"That... is true. And Eldest Sister would feel guilty about it after the fact..."

"Right?" John leaned on the counter again and said, "So, what'll it be? Some food? Make up? A pet?"

Beta paused to think and then flushed. "T-There is one thing."

John smiled. "Go ahead. Anything."

"...Y-You cannot judge me for it. You absolutely cannot."

Seeing her so bashful, John's smile widened and he said, "Of course I won't, Betty. Besides, it can't be anything more embarrassing than what I used to do, right?"

"That... is true. But I still want your promise, Father."

"Fine, fine." John stuck out his pinky and said, "Pinky promise."

Beta stared at it and then nodded before sticking her pinky up as well.

John wrapped his pinky around hers and said, "I promise to not judge my beloved and smart daughter Betty for her request. Happy?"

Beta nodded and lowered her hand. After that, she glanced at John and opened her mouth a few times to talk. After trying and failing, she blushed a deep red and beckoned John to lean over.

"Ooh, a secret?" John smiled and leaned over. "Fine, fine. What is it?"

Beta whispered something into John's ear.

John froze and then rapidly blinked. Afterwards, he leaned back and stared at Beta.

The crimson-haired beauty had turned as red as her hair and was averting her gaze.

John coughed and then muttered, "Well... I... suppose you are... at that age. No, considering how long it's been, the fact that you've, um... held off for so long is actually incredible."

Beta narrowed her eyes and said, "Y-You do not need to make it awkward, Father!"

He held up his hands and said, "I got it, I got it. You can use my card to buy whatever you want online. Just... ship it to my apartment instead of the studio. It'll be less awkward for everyone around. Ah, and it's probably best if you play them over there and use restrictive formations when you-"

"FATHER!"

"I'm just saying. No dad wants to walk in on his daughter-"

Beta raised her coffee cup, eyes quickly flitting between it and John's face.

He coughed and said, "I'll be heading back to the basement. Come get me when Alphy wants to talk. Ah, and if I have to make a personal recommendation about your request- Gah, hot!"

Oi, John! You can't take my profile picture like that!

John: Then you shouldn't put me in awkward situations with my daughters!

Hey, blame being born as an eroge protagonist and getting isekai'd, not me.

John: Wait, what?

Aaaand cut. Thanks for reading guys!

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