Rin swung a pair of shopping bags around as she walked out of the store and said, "Those aunties were super nice! I didn't expect to get such a big discount on everything!"
Asako glanced back at the store clerks who still seemed a bit dazed and said, "Me neither." Looking to her own bag of clothing, she said, "Maybe I should go shopping with you guys more often..."
A ninety percent discount off her purchases was definitely worth dealing with the headache that the trio of girls lacking common sense caused.
Alpha looked to her own bags, filled to the brim with dresses and clothes and said, "I feel a bit guilty. Shouldn't we be paying those women back instead of taking advantage of them like this? The two seemed so frail... What if there's lasting effects?"
Beta shrugged, readjusting her own bags, and said, "They will be fine. Eldest Sister's cuteness may have a tangible form, but it is not fatal. Incapacitating, yes. But not fatal. Moreover..." She glanced at Alpha and said, "If it troubles you, simply think of it as them paying tribute for someone they admire."
Alpha frowned. "But I'm not someone worth admiring-"
"No!" Rin cut her off and said, "No talking down about yourself!"
Alpha sighed, carefully cradling her bags against her chest. "Fine. Then... I guess I'll just have to take extra good care of these clothes."
Beta nodded. "That is the spirit. Besides, it is a blessing to the world itself that my adorable Eldest Sister is wandering around in the public."
Asako hummed. "I dunno about that. Seemed more like a curse to that one guy who got slapped by his girlfriend for staring at Alpha too long."
Him and the other random people that either ran into things out of shock or literally tripped on their own feet when they saw Alpha.
Asako wanted to laugh at them... but then she remembered how she acted when she saw John for the first time and decided not to react.
Karma could be a spiteful woman like that, and she didn't want to accumulate anything after just getting out of her mess with her father.
Beta chuckled. "He was fortunate that Father is not here with us. If he were, I doubt that man would get off so lightly.
Rin huffed. "Yeah! Who does a guy like that think he is, staring at Nee-chan when he's already got a girlfriend?" She glanced at Asako and said, "You agree with me, right, Aneue?"
Asako shook her head. "I feel bad for the suckers who fall in love with Alpha. They've got a serious uphill battle to fight..."
Rin was already prepared to chew out any potential suitors, Beta was super overprotective, judging from how she acted in Alfi's streams, and then there was the unfathomable Mister Smith himself at the top... and maybe more hidden bosses in the form of their youngest sister and that mysterious Mistress Yue.
Alpha frowned. "I wouldn't call them suckers... but I feel bad too. Anyone that falls in love with me..." She trailed off and shook her head. "It's better that they don't. Such a bond wouldn't last. And if someone seriously tried... I don't know how I could handle it."
Asako shrugged. "You probably don't have to worry about it. With how overprotective your 'Papa' is, I doubt you'll find anyone anytime soon."
Alpha bristled and said, "Papa isn't overprotective! He's just... concerned."
Asako nodded. "Spoken like a true Daddy's Girl."
Alpha narrowed her eyes.
Rin stepped in between them and said, "Aneue! Nee-chan! No fighting!"
Alpha immediately backed off and lowered her gaze. "Sorry, Rin."
Asako sighed and rubbed the back of her neck with her left hand. "I'm sorry too, Alpha. Damn." She frowned and said, "I've been cooped up too long... I really need to let off some steam." She sighed and said, "Man, I'd give a lot to run my car on an Ebisu track right now."
"Ebisu?" Rin tilted her head and said, "What's that?"
"A drift car racing track... Which reminds me." Asako took a look around and said, "Think this place has any stores that sell box sets of nineties manga or anime? Like Inertial D."
Beta adjusted her sunglasses and said, "I would presume so... Ah." She glanced off to the side and pointed to a book store nearby called 'Book Runner.' "That store should have some. Though..." She glanced at her bags and said, "Should we head back to drop off our purchases at the car first?"
"I'm fine!" Rin smiled and said, "And I want to buy some manga too! It's nice having a subscription to read it online, but I always wanted some nice box sets to put on my shelf!"
Alpha's eyes lit up and she said, "That *does* sound nice... And it would make for some good decoration too."
Rin walked over to Asako and said, "Could you carry these for me, Aneue?"
Asako blinked. "Me? I don't mind, but-"
"Kay! Thanks!" Rin shoved her bags at Asako and then ran into the store.
Alpha glanced at Rin and then shifted her gaze to Beta. Glancing at the bags... or rather, lack of bags Beta carried, Alpha bit her lips, hesitant.
Beta smiled and held out her hand. "I can hold those for you, Eldest Sister."
"W-Will you? But..."
Beta deliberately stepped towards her and took the bags. "Go have fun looking through the catalogue with Rin."
Alpha still seemed hesitant, but then she nodded and gave Beta a bright smile. "Thank you, Betty. I love you."
"E-Eh?" Beta blinked and then said, "E-Eldest Sister?"
Alpha blushed and then walked into the store after Rin.
Seeing Beta's reaction, Asako smiled and said, "So even you can get caught off guard, huh?"
Beta shook her head and placed a hand over her heart. "That was dangerous. Perhaps I underestimated Eldest Sister... Were I anyone else, my heart would have stopped."
Asako shrugged and then hefted the bags. Tilting her head towards the book store, she said, "Should we head in?"
Beta nodded and started walking. "Yes. Father would never let me live it down if there were a casualty while we were out on our own."
Asako laughed. "That's a good one. Alpha might be cute, but it's not like you can die from cuteness. Right?"
"Perhaps if it was anyone else. But Eldest Sister is special."
Asako shook her head and said, "You guys really hold each other in high esteem, huh? Kinda wish I could relate..."
Seeing that prim and proper Beta stubbornly insist that her Eldest Sister was the cutest person in the world was definitely endearing.
Beta glanced at Asako and frowned. "I feel that you are misunderstanding something again..."
The pair walked inside the store, causing a small chime to echo as they entered.
It was a lot bigger on the inside than it appeared on the outside. Towering bookshelves, glass display cases with BlueGray box sets of current and older anime. Paper cutouts of popular anime characters, trading cards, a corner for visual novels and doujins...
In short, an otaku's wet dream.
It was also surprisingly empty... but then again, it *was* a Monday morning.
Beta's eyes lit up as soon as she walked in, immediately turning towards a section in the back. "Pardon me, Asako. But I have a few purchases that I must make before we leave."
Before Asako could get a word in, was already halfway across the store.
Asako blinked and said, "Wasn't she the one hesitating on whether to visit this store?"
It seemed like Asako was learning all sorts of things about her fellow co-workers today...
"Let's see..." Asako muttered and took a casual look around.
Rin had holed up in a corner of the room, flipping through Shoujo manga.
Alpha had gone over to the mech displays, staring at them with glittering eyes...
And Beta was off in that back corner looking at questionable materials that Asako knew better than to comment on.
In short, it seemed like it'd be a while before they left.
Asako rolled her neck and then started walking, using the hanging signs on the ceiling to navigate. "Let's see... retro games, 2000s manga, Shounen... Here we are." She came to a stop at one of those rotating stands propped up at the end of an aisle.
It was a sort of a shrine to bygone eras, with classics like Neo Genesis Evangeline, Visor21... and the exact set she was looking for, Inertial D. Not only that, but it was a special limited edition print of the entire series in a white eight-six, the signature car of the main character.
And also the one that John used to beat her in that race.
Asako picked up the set and hefted it over her shoulder. After that, she glanced at the rest of the manga. "Hm..."
Since she was here, she might as well pick up some other sets, right? And it wasn't like she spent that much on clothes, so-
"Ooh! That's a cool box set, Aneue!"
Asako flinched and spun around, almost dropping the box along with her bags. After making sure they were steady, she sighed and then said, "You're a lot stealthier than I gave you credit, Rin."
"Hm?" Rin tilted her head. "Am I?" She paused and then her eyes lit up. "Ooh! Maybe the ballet training that I've been doing made me lighter on my feet!"
Or maybe the apple didn't fall too far from the tree. Rin didn't seem to inherit much from their father... assuming that Asako was correct about being her older half-sister, but it seemed like she inherited more of that bastard's physique than Asako did.
"Oh right! I found that manga I was talking about!" Rin lifted up a book and said, "See? She looks just like you!"
"Hm?" Asako blinked and looked at the manga cover.
Like Rin said, it was female lead who looked conspicuously like Asako. The blurb said it was a modern take on Romeo and Juliet, star-crossed lovers from rival Yakuza clans... Written by a guy called the First Tiger Department.
Rin took the book back and flipped through before stopping on a page. "Ah! Here it is! See, look!"
A dramatic scene of a handsome young man with brown hair adjusting a pair of glasses. He stood in front of a group of Yakuza with his head half turned. The next panel was a close-up shot of the female lead, staring at him with wide eyes.
[Aneue. They didn't get to you, did they?]
That scene... Those words...
"O-Oi! Give me that!"
Asako shifted her bags and box set around before taking the book and flipping through it.
A one-shot volume. The story of a young man who got beat up by the female lead and fell in love with her strong nature, but then was forced to part ways because of their situations.
It didn't happen that way. But the broad strokes...
"First Tiger Department... Ichi Torabu... Ichi? That bastard wrote a book- No, he drew a manga about it?!"
Asako froze, realizing where she was. And then she let out a long sigh. "Sorry, Rin. I just know the di- the dude who drew this manga." She narrowed her eyes. "And it seems like we need to talk."
She had already planned to contact him again since the situation with the yakuza world had been resolved, but now she had another reason to do so.
And another reason to beat that pretty boy up.
Asako handed the book back to Rin.
"Wow!" She took it and said, "Aneue's pretty amazing to know a mangaka! Especially Ichi Torabu! He's famous, you know?"
Asako blinked and said, "Is he now?"
"Mmhm! He actually makes a lot of manga with strong female leads." Rin paused and said, "Come to think of it, a lot of them look like you..."
Asako's eyebrow twitched. "...We should go check out."
"Oh right!" Rin nodded and said, "We've been gone a while! Do you think the others will mind if we go first?"
Remembering the gleam in Beta's eyes, Asako shook her head and said, "I'm sure it'll be fine."
Like that, Asako headed towards the check out, Rin trailing by her side. As the pair headed over there, Alpha joined them, carrying a small armful of mech model sets. And contrary to expectations, Beta rejoined the group as well, carrying a conspicuously unmarked white box set.
Somehow, Asako ended up taking the lead this time, with Beta taking up the rear.
The clerk manning the countertop was a young woman with cropped black hair. Wearing black overalls and a white cap, she gave off a tomboyish charm.
She also seemed vaguely familiar to Asako.
Standing across the countertop from the clerk was a police officer in full uniform. A typical middle-aged man that could be found pretty much anywhere.
The officer noticed the group approaching and then bowed his head to the clerk. "Sorry for taking up your time while you're on-duty, Yozora-san."
The clerk, 'Yozora' waved her hand. "It's fine! It's been a slow morning anyway, and it's nice to hear how Chi-chan's been!"
He nodded and then said, "I'll leave you to your work then." With that, and a small wave, he turned around to leave. And then he noticed Rin and stopped.
Asako stepped in front of her and said, "Is there a problem, Officer?"
A calm, professional reaction. But on the inside...
...She was panicking.
Right! How could she forget!?
While Asako might be fine, and Beta could be given a pass because of her outfit, Alpha and Rin both looked around the age that they should be attending high school. And while it wasn't mandatory education, that still didn't change the fact that it looked like they were a group of girls skipping out on school in the middle of the day.
The officer shifted his gaze to Asako and then shook his head. "No. But..." He glanced back to Rin and said, "Pardon me, young miss. May I ask you something?"
In the corner of Asako's eyes, she saw Beta glance at the clerk and the officer, her orange eyes shifting to an ominous blue. And at the same time, Alpha tensed, subtly moving closer to Rin.
Bad. Everything inside of Asako told her that this situation was going to turn south, fast.
So before that happened...
Asako moved to block off the officer's vision again and said, "Sorry, Officer. I think there may be a-"
"Oh!" Rin stepped out from behind Asako and smiled. "Uncle Takashi! I didn't expect to see you here! How've you been?"
John paused in the middle of typing on his keyboard.
Qing pulled his hands back from his laptop and glanced at John from across the table. "Is something wrong, Master John?"
John frowned and stared at the unfinished webpage for Asako's character reveal. "...No. But my instincts are telling me that I'm going to have to come up with some creative explanations fairly soon."
The former Azure Dragon grumbled and went back to typing at his laptop. "More issues? Haah. Master John really should have done things properly from the beginning." He sighed and said, "Just ensure that whatever you say, you run it by me afterwards. I will need to weave it into this tapestry of lies that you've constructed in this world."
John rubbed the back of his neck and let out a sheepish smile. "It... wasn't that bad, was it?"
"...Need I remind you of the fact that you forgot to file the paperwork to withdraw Miss Hibana from school and register her as an employee for Project MirAIs under the requisite provisional license?"
"Okay." John nodded. "So maybe it *was* that bad."
Qing shook his head and said, "You can thank me later by not forgetting to hand over that repository of this world's accumulated knowledge when I finish finalizing the records for Madam Yue and Miss Omega."
"Will do. One tablet loaded with every webpage, eBook, and audiobook, coming up. Though..." He frowned and glanced around the room. "Where did Bai go? Did he bail on us?"
"The cat said that he finished his portion of work so he decided to take you up on your offer and relax." Qing brushed a stray hair away from his eyes and said, "I believe he mentioned something about renting a private dwelling and examining this world's form of entertainment?"
"Hm... Well, I guess that's alright then." John started to go back to editing the webpage, but then he paused and looked at Qing. "...Did you need some time to find a place for yourself as well, Qing?"
"Thank you for your concern, Master John, but I have already made the proper arrangements."
John shrugged and went back to work.
Meanwhile, at a rented apartment about a city block away from Myth Inc. HQ.
A dark room, barely lit by the soft glow of a laptop screen. There, Bai glared at the screen, his eye bleary and bloodshot.
He slammed his fist against the floor and said, "Dammit! What you mean there's no safety net?! What kind of bullshit gambling system is this!?"
A dozen emulators were spun up on the screen, each with the same game displayed: Fake Grand Order. Specifically, each of them were on the limited time summoning banner for Fate/Stay Knight's main characters. There were other units listed, but Bai didn't care about that. What mattered was that there was a rate up for Saber.
Bai shook his head and said, "I refuse to believe this. All of story mode, 1000 rolls, twelve accounts..." He grit his teeth and then moved his mouse cursor over the button to run a macro to roll on all the accounts. The final ten summon before he had to reroll, having exhausted all of his Divine Quartz.
"GIVE ME MY CUTE SABER-CHAN!" Roaring a battle cry, Bai slammed his finger down on his touchpad, starting the final ten summons.
Light flashed. Gold sparks with rainbow lightning, indicating a five star. And the final result...
"Who the hell is this smug looking gold bastard?! I already have to deal with one in reality! $hit! Dammit! Fvck!"
...Was a collage of the smug King of Heroes, displayed on all twelve accounts.