107 – When the Stars Align
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John narrowed his eyes and muttered, "I slipped up, huh?"

Since the karmic flux had been settled after the situation with Shin, John thought that the good luck spells he kept casting were finally working. After all, things seemed to be going well.

And just as he was starting to think about looking into proper security so that he wouldn't have people suspiciously wandering around absentminded after being turned away from formations or have some shady anonymous foreigners working nearby, Officer Kimura- Or rather, Takashi as he insisted to be called, showed up.

But it seemed like the guy was more cunning than John expected.

Also that John had been relaxing a bit *too* much to slip up like that- No, that was wrong. He had gotten too used to being able to fix those slip-ups by just using sheer force.

Takashi waved his hand and said, "Don't get too rattled about it. I've had decades in the field getting people to unwittingly reveal information."

John tilted his head, thinking.

It... probably wasn't too big a deal if that guy knew the real identities of the Project MirAis idols. But judging from how he deduced that Asako was the next to debut and trick John into revealing it...

To be fair, it was probably fairly suspicious with all the girls together like that. Even so, John had to give Takashi some credit.

And in doing so, he had to acknowledge the fact that it could cause trouble if he found out John was the one who resolved the yakuza situation.

Or would it?

A wrong word could cause trouble here, but trouble and good fortune went hand-in-hand. So...

Takashi chuckled. "There's no need to be so serious." He let out a kind smile and said, "You're doing a good thing here so I'm not going to ruin it. But." His gaze sharpened and he said, "I did want to check things out for myself. If you're going to provide a cover for the two daughters of an infamous yakuza leader, you'd better have proper security and privacy protocols. And so far... Well, I can't say I'm too impressed."

John sighed and ran a hand through his hair. "I'll give you that one..."

It was true that John, Beta, and Alpha were all too used to wandering about with impunity. Acting discreetly was a bit of a recent thing.

And it seemed like Takashi had figured everything out too.

"...But my daughters can handle themselves."

Today was an exception because they were out with Asako and Rin, but if it was just the two of them, John was sure that Beta would have resolved the situation handily even if they blew their cover.

Takashi blinked. "Your daughters? What are you talking about? I meant Rin and Asako."

"Eh?" John frowned. "What do you mean Rin and Asako? I thought you were talking about Alphy and Betty."

Silence.

And then Takashi frowned, staring carefully at John. As he did, he glanced at John's left hand and the wedding ring on it. "That ring..." He looked up at John, his eyes wide. "The Golden Dragon? Are you the mysterious new boss Kiri mentioned? The one that Demon Shin warned about?"

John felt a headache coming on. He rubbed the bridge of his nose with his left hand and then held up his right. "Hold on. I think I just got dropped a bombshell I wasn't expecting."

Takashi had said *daughters* of an infamous yakuza leader. And he said he meant Rin and Asako.

Asako made sense. John knew that she was Shin's daughter. It was in her last name, and the assassination attempts made that clear.

But Rin...?

John looked at Takashi and said, "You're telling me that Rin is Shin's daughter? Asako's sister? But Sakura is too young to be... Unless that bastard was even more of a degenerated pervert than I thought? But- No. Even if he was..."

John was missing something here. Things weren't adding up... and he had a feeling that his life was going to get more complicated as a result...

Glancing over at Takashi, John noticed that the police officer looked just as confused as he was.

Eventually, Takashi sighed and said, "What do you say to getting that drink we talked about?"

John blinked. "A drink? Now? But it's only- Actually, you know what? Let's go."

It wouldn't help him at all, but maybe the bar atmosphere would let John mull things over properly... and get Takashi relaxed enough to get the rest of the story out of the officer.

-----AI|IA-----

John glanced at the name of the bar that Takashi suggested and muttered, "Rebel, huh?"

Takashi opened the door, causing a bell to chime, and said, "I know the bartender, so it should be private... and a decent place to get a drink in the middle of the day." After that, Takashi walked inside.

John followed and said, "That's not really something a good cop should tell me."

Takashi chuckled. "True. But I wasn't always a good cop."

John lowered his gaze and muttered, "I'm getting the feeling that everyone I've met since getting here has a complicated backstory..."

Kai had turned out to be the current Torabu Clan Chairman. The first woman he saw turned out to be Asako, who was the daughter of the most infamous yakuza leader. Officer Kimura apparently had a complicated history that tied in with the criminal underworld... and with Kiri too. Chef Miyamoto was the previous Torabu Clan Chairman...

And now there was Rin, who was apparently the illegitimate daughter of Shin Seiryuu as well as Asako's younger sister... Half-sister?

John didn't know, but he was getting a headache.

Just when he thought his karmic situation was sorted out, he learned all of this...

What was next? Was that random Starbux barista he met going to secretly turn out to be a vagrant martial artist on the lam or something?

"Yo." A smooth and deep male voice echoed from further in.

John looked up to see a suave man in a suit manning the bar counter.

He was gruff, but in the way that girls would find attractive rather than sloppy. A small black goatee, slicked black and wavy black hair with a few stray strands covering sharp dark eyes...

In short, a cool guy that would be expected to run a bar.

The bartender glanced at Takashi and said, "A drink on the job again, Aniki? The higher ups giving you that much stress?"

Takashi groaned and took a seat at the counter. "Don't remind me, Jin. Just give me the usual... and something for my friend too." He paused and then glanced back at John. "Anything in particular?"

John sat down next to Takashi and said, "I'll just have whatever you have."

"You heard him."

The bartender, Jin, nodded and then headed to the back to prepare their drinks.

As the guy left, John took a look around the bar.

It was pretty fancy. Despite being a hole-in-the-wall place in the shadier part of Roppongi, the facilities were modern and well-maintained.

A dance floor with a jukebox. Some high seat leather booths. Warm lamp lighting to make up for the lack of windows and natural day light.

All-in-all, a decent hangout place.

Which made it kind of surprising that there weren't many other people around.

...And also a place that John made a mental note to come back to in order to unwind in case things hit the fan- No, *when* things hit the fan later.

"So." Takashi turned to John and said, "What's your story? You've clearly left out the key details... like how old you really are. Or what kind of god you pissed off to be cursed with daughters that beautiful."

A pointed and probing opening, but one softened by the joke at the end. It seemed that Takashi didn't intend to interrogate him.

Realizing that, John decided to play along. He smiled and said, "Rather than what kind of god I pissed off, it's easier to ask what kind of god I *haven't* pissed off. But I wouldn't consider it being cursed to have such beautiful daughters. In fact, I'd say that having them both in my life is a miracle that I'll never regret."

It had been rough for a while in the early years, but John was sure that he wouldn't have made it to the current day with his sanity in one piece if not for his lovely daughters.

Mostly because it meant he had people he could consider family in a place where he had been all alone... and partially because they were a reminder that not every beautiful woman out there wanted to get in his pants. But that was neither here nor there.

Takashi's eyes lit up and he gave John an approving nod. "That's a good mindset to have."

John paused and said, "Why'd you ask me that though? Do you regret having a daughter?"

Even if a joke, there seemed to be a certain weight behind it that came from personal experience.

Takashi shook his head. "I don't. My Chi-chan is the main reason why this old man's still alive. But I do get worried at times." He sighed and said, "With my long work hours and her being so cute... not to mention her introverted and quiet personality. A father can't help but worry." He looked at John and said, "You understand?"

John nodded. "I can see that."

It *was* a bit troublesome having beautiful daughters when he put it that way. And if John was an ordinary dad on Earth and his daughters were that beautiful, he'd be stressed out of his mind as well.

But he wasn't, and his daughters were far from ordinary young women.

After all, Betty could literally, figuratively, and metaphorically change a person's record of existence and their soul if she wanted to. Plus she was far from naive about the desires of men after that 'incident.'

And Alphy could rip apart anybody that tried any funny business with her, so he didn't have to worry about anything happening to his eldest daughter either.

...Though she *was* a bit different now that she was on Earth. And Alphy tended to hold herself back a bit too much now and avoid situations because she didn't want to cause trouble for John...

And she also tended to bottle things up-

John tensed, suddenly realizing all the flags and tropes associated with a beautiful young woman like that.

"Note to self. Remember to have Betty have 'the chat' with Alphy as well as all the dangers that men can pose. Secondary note: reiterate a thousand times to Alphy that it's better to cause a scene than endure."

Takashi blinked and gave John a strange look. "What was that?"

John shook his head. "Nothing. Just... turns out I have some things I need to mention to my daughter."

"Ah." Takashi nodded in understanding.

Silence, the two sharing a moment of shared sympathy of the troubles coming with being fathers of beautiful daughters.

And then Takashi shook his head and said, "In any case, I don't have to worry about Chi-chan for much longer."

"Wait. Why?" John turned to look at Takashi and then narrowed his eyes. "Don't tell me you just got diagnosed with an incurable disease or something. No, are you planning to stage a suicide as an accident to give Chihiro a life insurance policy? Because if it's like that, I'm going to have to do my part as a good samaritan and stage an intervention."

Takashi laughed. "I'd be lying if I said that thought never crossed my mind... but I couldn't do that to my daughter. Not until she has a proper man to take care of her." He paused and said, "Or woman. Just... someone she loves and who loves her."

John narrowed his eyes and said, "That's not a 'no.'"

Takashi smiled and said, "You're a good man John. Despite your clearly fake name and flimsy background."

John coughed.

The bartender came back and placed two foaming mugs of draft beer in front of Takashi and John. After that, he said, "I'll be in the back if you need me. Aniki, I'll leave it on your tab."

Takashi picked up the mug in front of him and raised it. "Thanks, Jin."

John picked up his mug as well and said, "I didn't take you to be a fan of this kind of drink." Taking a sip, it was definitely the same sort that he had in his college days back in America. Fairly nostalgic at that... and even better now that he didn't have to worry about getting a hangover from it.

Takashi shrugged and said, "I got used to it overseas."

"Overseas?"

Takashi waved his hand. "I'll tell you about it some other time. But to answer your first question, it's because I'm retiring."

John took another sip from his beer and wiped the foam off his mouth. "Retiring, huh? Is it because of the current situation?"

"Mm." Takashi took a long drink and then said, "I planned to stay on to the new year... but now's as good a time as ever. Now that the yakuza have been disbanded and my old friends came back from the dead-"

John resisted the urge to spit out his drink, carefully maintaining his composure.

"-I really don't have much to do. And the district's offered me a nice pension for being the one to lead the charge in arresting Shin. Well, 'offered' is putting it lightly."

John nodded. "They want you out of the limelight so they can take credit for the rest, huh?"

Takashi nodded. "That's right." He took a long drink from his beer and said, "But that's fine. I was on my way out anyway. Besides, this gives me a perfect opportunity."

"Hm?"

Takashi looked at John and said, "I have a question for you, John. And I want a proper answer."

"...Alright. That's fair."

Takashi had been forthright with him, so John might as well respond in kind.

...Though if Takashi somehow guessed that John was someone from a different world or a time traveler, he was definitely going to need to come up with creative excuses.

Takashi waved his hand and said, "I won't pry too much into your past. After all, you seem to be a good guy... And anyone that helped to take out that demonic bastard is a saint in my books."

John nodded. "I'm sensing a but..."

Takashi smiled. "But I'm worried about Asako and Rin... Well, especially Rin. This isn't to doubt you, John, but... your company seems pretty lax on security and privacy protocols for a business built on protecting its talents."

...Wait. If the conversation was turning like this... Then did that mean he was right the first time? Was his luck turning around?

"That's... true."

John slowly nodded while mulling over the situation.

Qing had just been talking about needed to hire real employees with a proper background on Earth earlier that morning. And now Takashi showed up like this, recently retired... Or at least on the way to being retired...

"John." Takashi set his mug down and said, "Would you let-"

"You're hired."

Takashi blinked and then chuckled. "I'm surprised. I thought a keen businessman like you would negotiate more."

John shook his head. "Since we're being honest here, I'll say that I've actually been in a bit of a bind finding people I can trust to join the company. It'll be great to have someone with your experience handle the security and privacy side of things."

Takashi smiled. "Then let's toast on it." After that, he held up his mug.

John nodded and held his mug up as well. "I'll be counting on you, Takashi."

"And I'll be looking forward to working with you, John."

The two clanged their mugs together.

John smiled and sipped his beer again.

As he did, Takashi spoke up. "There's actually something else I wanted to ask you as well, John. If you don't mind."

"Go for it."

"Where's your wife?"

"..."

-----AI|IA-----

The private pagoda, just outside the Celestial Jade Palace.

Yue sat hunched at a table, carefully examining the star charts to account for any dimensional drift and adjust the teleportation formation.

Since her skin had been sensitive recently... and since she had been gaining a bit of weight, she was wearing a loose and fluffy white robe that drifted around her like clouds, concealing her body.

"Hm..." Yue glanced at the star chart and muttered a sutra, casting a karmic scrying spell on her dear husband. "It appears that nothing troublesome has come his way. Good."

She had been worried that her dear husband would wrap himself up in more trouble since the last time she checked... and she had also been feeling a bit guilty since she caused a good portion of it in her fit of anger by casting all sorts of karmic curses.

"In that case, we should be clear to travel soon. It's a bit early, but since that strange karmic storm has been settled and the stars are aligning faster than anticipated..."

A sudden sharp pang in her abdomen.

Yue frowned and clutched her belly. "Again...?"

It was odd. Ever since she started going through her dear husband's pantry and eating the dishes he left behind, Yue had been getting sudden waves of pain in her abdomen.

No, pain was too strong a word. It was instead more like a sudden impact. Like her abdomen was randomly tensing up.

Yue sighed and placed down the Putei Tu chip that she was planning to eat. "...Maybe I should stop."

She was beginning to suspect that her husband's cooking wasn't suitable for her physique. But...

Before Yue knew it, the chip was in her mouth and she was already chewing it. After tasting the delightful mix of sharp vinegar and salt, Yue moaned and then reached for another chip.

"...Stupid- Mm... Master. Making me... *crunch* Like this... *crunch*."

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