81 – Life Will Change
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John parked his black BMW in the back of Myth Inc's office and then got out of his car.

Since his clothes weren't really presentable after last night's affairs, he had changed into a fresh pair: a casual black t-shirt and jeans.

Considering it was still snowing a bit, the choice was odd. Far too minimal to hold up to the cold weather.

But John didn't mind. After all, it wasn't like people didn't stare at him enough already. It was just another reason to add to that long list.

More importantly though...

John reached back into his car and pulled out a tray of drinks. Four cups, two mochas, a hot chocolate, and an americano. Two for Betty, one for Alphy, and then a pick-me-up for Asako considering that she'd need it if she hadn't heard the news already. All of it freshly brewed and mixed from cafe Reblank down in Kichijoji.

It wasn't Starbux, but it was higher quality and hopefully more endearing.

At least, John hoped. He really needed something to distract them from the fact that he was out and about the same night Tokyo got turned upside down...

Which reminded him.

*Hey. Titor. You did the thing, right?*

A yawn echoed in John's head, followed by a voice that sounded like his, but slightly different. 'You mean the reservations and then streaming the speedruns? Yeah. Why?'

*Good. And the two didn't catch on?*

'Well Betty was online all night doing something, so I'm not sure. But Alphy was playing Animul Crossing with Rin, so she shouldn't have realized.'

John nodded. "Looks like it should be fine then."

He hugged the drink tray against his chest and made his way across the parking lot towards the building. Steam shimmered from the lids of the drinks as snow fell from the gray clouds above.

"Snow..." John muttered and then said, "I wonder how Yue's doing?"

He hadn't felt any more karmic spells, so it seemed like his wife had given up. That was good. But at the same time, that was worrisome.

"She's not someone to just give up that easily..."

John had been fully expecting to deal with a barrage of karmic spells for the next month or so, but his beloved wife had stopped.

It wasn't like her, especially when taking his actions into account.

After all, he really did just kind of pack up his bags and left the moment he became a transcendent... And he didn't say that he was planning to head back later or anything to pick her up.

For all she knew, John could have just decided to dump her and go to a place she couldn't reach.

So he was expecting her to be upset, especially after hearing that she had changed her Dao to Karma of all things. But now...

"Should I head back to the Three Realms?"

It wasn't like he *couldn't* head back. After all, he had bound the Realm Source to his will, so he could always return whenever he wanted.

The problem was getting back to Earth. Specifically, the Earth that he had found himself on.

Even if he left a spiritual marker on the planet, and even though Earth was the only planet with living beings within a hundred galaxies, John judged his odds of making a successful return trip being only 70%.

Of course, he could eventually get back to Earth if he kept trying. And there wasn't any real danger in him doing so. But he didn't know how much time would pass in the meanwhile.

It would be terrible if he arrived back on Earth only to discover that he was a million years into the future... or in the past.

John shook his head as he walked through the front entrance.

No. It was better to wait a bit. If Yue didn't arrive by Christmas, he would make a clone and send Beta back to retrieve them. His beloved daughter would definitely be capable of mapping out the exact path and timing so that they landed back in the present.

'You know, you're really sounding like who I'm supposed to be now.'

*Ha. Ha. Go back to your speedruns.*

'Sure, sure.'

The doors closed behind John and he looked over to the front desk.

And then he froze.

"M-Miss. I am honored, but I have to refuse."

"Oh don't be like that. I don't mind the age difference!"

"But I do." Kiri gently pushed Asako away from him and then looked towards the entrance. "Ah. Welcome back, Boss."

John blinked, looking between him and Asako.

Seeing the latter's frustration and glare, John smiled and said, "Thanks, Kiri. Do you mind going out to grab some groceries for me? You know, the basics."

Kiri nodded, a neutral expression on his face but relief in his eyes. "As you say, Boss." With that, he took quick strides back towards John and then out the door.

After that, John looked to Asako and chuckled. "You're quite aggressive, aren't you? I wouldn't think that from how meek you seemed to be when I first saw you."

Asako huffed and crossed her arms, walking back to lean on the front desk. "Screw you. I almost got a date off the guy."

"I'm not sure badgering a guy twice your age for a date tends to go over well, especially when you're probably around the age his adoptive daughter is. Besides, why Kiri? You got a thing for older men or something?"

Asako flushed and tossed her hair. "S-So what if I do, huh? Got something to say about it, asshole?"

"Oh." John blinked, not even considering that she'd respond like that. "Um... Good for you. I won't judge-" He paused, suddenly remembering how Asako had acted around him in the past and then carefully took a few steps away from her, his eyes narrowed. "You aren't coming onto me, are you?"

Asako huffed. "As if. I know where to draw the line."

John sighed. "Good. Because I'll have you know I'm happily married and-" He paused and then groaned. "I knew I was forgetting something."

"Huh?"

John shook his head and then shifted the drink tray to his left hand. After that, he made a show of rummaging around in his pocket with his right hand. In truth, he opened up his personal pocket space.

It wasn't his Heavenly Realm. That place was where he kept the random treasures and items he had gathered across the years.

The pocket space was like an inventory menu that John used for personal items. A substitute for spatial rings and bags of holdings that could be lost.

It was something he had made after he dropped his last spatial ring somewhere in his Heavenly Realm and couldn't find it. A great idea at the time too, considering that he could always reach it and didn't have to worry about losing it.

Unless he forgot he had made it, like until now.

John sighed and then pulled out a ring from the pocket space.

It was a wedding band made from pure gold, shaped like a coiled dragon. One of its talons was upraised, clutching a sparkling white jade orb. And on that orb, a single character was etched. The moon... Or read differently, 'Yue'.

He slipped it on his left ring finger and then nodded. "There. Should stop the misunderstandings and more troublesome encounters now."

John had completely forgotten that wedding rings were a thing back on Earth. In the Three Realms, people wore all sorts of random things, so a ring like that didn't stand out. Not that a wedding ring would even stop a determined individual in the first place though...

But Earth was different. Which... he honestly should have remembered considering he was planning to live here for a while.

John frowned. "Did I forget anything else important...?" He didn't think so. But then again, it had been a long, long, long time since he even had to think about Earth, so there might very well be other things he forgot.

"Wait." Asako called out.

John looked up and tilted his head. "Yes?"

She pointed at his hand and said, "That. Is that a wedding ring?"

John adjusted the drink tray to show off the ring and smiled. "That's right. My beloved wife made this for me after we promised ourselves to each other. I was worried about losing it though so I tucked it away a while back."

After all, considering it was made from the golden core of a solar star and the silver core of a stellar moon that Yue went all out to get, there were more than a few people that would try to steal it from him if they saw it.

Though in hindsight, he should probably have gotten a better ring for her than a simple golden band with a small diamond in return...

"You shameless bastard!"

"What?" Did Asako just read his mind?

Asako crossed her arms and glared at him. "If you had something like that you should have worn it earlier! A guy as handsome and kind as you walking around without a ring leads women on!"

Oh. Right. So not a mind reader then. But even so...

John coughed. "Sorry about that. And here." He pulled out the americano from the drink tray and walked over to Asako. "A pick-me-up."

Asako kept glaring, but then she sighed and took the drink. "Dammit. The world really isn't fair to me, is it? Why are all the goddamned men I'm interested in taken already?"

John shrugged and started walking towards the elevator. "I'm sure you'll find a guy sometime... But if it makes you feel better, your dad turned himself into the police and dissolved the Seiryuu Alliance."

Asako froze in the middle of sipping her drink and then jumped off the desk. "He did what?!"

The elevator opened. John walked inside and then pressed the button to the recording studio before turning around to wave at Asako. "There should be a video of his announcement on UTube or something. Look it up."

Asako started running towards him and said, "Wait, you bastard! You can't just drop a bomb like that on me and-!"

The elevator doors slammed shut, followed by the sound of John's muffled laughter.

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