108 – Stars of Destiny
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Omega glanced at her mother and said, "Are you sure we should go now, Mom? You've been so sick... maybe we could wait a bit longer for you to get better first?"

Yue patted Omega's head. "I'll be fine. It's just some nausea and stomach pain. And... while a bit embarrassing to say, it might just be since I started eating so much of your father's leftover dishes."

Omega huffed. "I told you to not eat those, Mom! Who knows what sorts of things Father put in it?"

Yue poked Omega's cheek and said, "There's no need to pretend to be upset. You can call him Dad if you want to."

Omega huffed again and turned her head to the side, flushing. "He doesn't deserve it. Father did too many bad things for me to call him Dad now."

Yue sighed, seeing the hurt in her daughter's eyes. "...Alright. But promise me that you'll talk with him before you do anything, okay?"

"...Fine."

Yue nodded and then looked up at the sky.

The formation was ready. The stars were aligned, and a gaping portal had been formed, revealing a floating blue sphere suspended in a sea of stars.

Omega looked to the sphere and said, "Is that where we're going, Mom?"

Yue smiled and said, "You've really been eager about addressing me informally recently, haven't you?"

Omega flushed and said, "I-It's a force of habit! And it's so long to say your whole title when- And you've been so sick, so I..."

Yue laughed and patted Omega's head. "It's fine. In fact... Since we're going to leave this all behind, I might as well be a bit informal as well." She gave Omega a soft smile and grabbed her right hand with her left. "Let's go, Meggie."

Omega's golden eyes widened, starting to water. She sniffed, brushing them away, and then nodded. "Y-Yes! Let's go, Moth- Mom... Mommy."

Yue's smile widened and she pulled Omega close before looking up and rousing her spiritual energy.

Omega noticed and then took one last look around. "Are we really not going to take anyone else with us? Since Father usually gets into messes, won't it be good to at least take Sister Zhaojun?"

"Don't worry, Meggie. Unlike your father, I've made the preparations to cross the stars without having to wait for them to align next time. But first..." She looked up at the blue sphere and frowned. "...We should see how bad the situation is first."

Omega narrowed her eyes. "Just wait until I get my hands on that worthless father of mine..."

Yue smiled. "You just can't wait to cry and run into his arms, can you, Meggie?"

Omega flushed. "That's not true!" She lowered her gaze and then mumbled. "It's not like I miss Dad or anything..."

"Whatever you say, Meggie. Now... We depart!" Yue waved her right hand.

Light flashed, the treasures evaporated... and then the mother and daughter pair were gone.

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

From the distance, the Celestial Jade Emperor sighed. "Little Yue..." He raised a worn out jade talisman, examining it. "Perhaps this is her Fate after all."

It was something that John would instantly recognize. After all, it was the same talisman that sent him to the Three Realms.

The Celestial Jade Emperor stared at the closed dimensional portal and shook his head, suddenly looking ancient and weary. But in the next moment his vigor returned, the fierce and indomitable ruler of the Three Realms back in an instant.

After all, he couldn't let the Three Realms fall into chaos. It'd be beyond embarrassing if his beloved daughter ran back home after finally deciding to leave that good for nothing and the place was in ruins...

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

John sneezed.

Asako frowned. "You alright?"

John nodded. "I'm fine. Someone's probably just talking about me behind my back." After saying that, he took out his phone to check the time.

Saturday, November 23rd. 6 AM, at a table in the underground kitchen. A plate stacked high with various donuts sat in the middle of it while John and Asako sat across from each other, both with a cup of steaming coffee.

The week had passed by in a blur, now only a day before Asako's debut on Sunday morning.

Since then, the business affairs were settled. Qing was working with Takashi to handle the proper security protocols, as well as starting to post audition forms. Bai was going out and grabbing the proper tax forms and also looking into the proper registration process for hiring new talents and paying their taxes.

Rin and Alphy were continuing to stream and having a blast doing it.

Betty... Well, she seemed to be enjoying the newly found free time. John had barely seen her in the last week, what with her talking about working on a fun side project...

And as for Titor... well, that guy said that the project was almost ready to be revealed. But that it would be more fun to wait and see.

Which kind of worried John, but again, the guy surely wouldn't do anything to blow their cover. Though admittedly he was his own worst enemy at times...

Might be a good idea to check on him.

John shook his head and then took a sip from his coffee and then looked over at Asako.

She was wearing some casual clothing. A sports sweatshirt with a Nikeys logo, sweatpants, and sneakers.

Since she wasn't talking, John decided to break the ice. "So how have you been recently? Adjusting well?"

Asako scoffed and took a bite of the donut on her plate. "After all the bullshit that happened to me recently because of you, how do you think I'm adjusting?"

John coughed. "T-True..."

He *did* throw her father in prison and overturn the entire yakuza world without so much as a warning. And considering that her plans had been to do that herself, it must have been like pulling the rug out from under her.

Asako took a sip from her cup of coffee and then sighed. "I guess it's not that bad though. The other girls are nice, and this place is quiet. Private too." She frowned. "Still not too sure of being an idol though..." She looked up at John and said, "You *sure* you're okay with me? I'm gonna tell you right now that if I slip up and stop acting idol-like that's on you."

"It... should be fine."

To say that John wasn't worried about that would be a lie. But he never made the Project MirAIs idol out to be proper idols anyway.

"Just make sure not to drop too many curse words? Please?"

"...I'll try." Asako shrugged and took a sip from her coffee again. After that, she leaned back in her chair and said, "So what's up? A married man like yourself shouldn't be inviting single women down into a dark basement for a 'private chat' you know?"

John paused. "I... guess it does seem bad out of context."

Note to self: remember to go find that checklist of things 'not to do' around women to trigger flags.

"But I figured I'd take some time to get to know you more. If it makes you feel better, think of it as an interview for the job?"

"An interview, huh?" Asako sipped her coffee and said, "I guess we never had one." She placed her cup down and said, "Alright. Ask away."

John nodded. "First of all then... I know that Shin's your dad-"

"Biological father."

John blinked.

Asako narrowed her eyes and said, "That fu- bastard is *not* my dad. Hell, sperm donor is a better word for him."

"Oookay. Got it. Then I take it you're happy that he's behind bars?"

A strange emotion crossed Asako's face. She frowned and then said, "I'm... not sure. Since he killed Mom, I've been working my ass off to get things ready to take him down and then flaunt it in his face on how his efforts were for nothing." Her frown deepened and said, "I was expecting to spend at least another decade working at it. But now..." She looked up at John and said, "A certain irritatingly handsome asshole took him out before I did."

John rubbed the back of his neck. "Yeah... I'm still sorry about that. But it was necessary."

"Yeah, yeah. I got it. Still pisses me off though." She reached over for another donut and munched on it.

John grabbed one as well and took a bite, mulling over what to ask next. Or rather, how to politely ask the question that was on his mind.

Asako noticed it and said, "What gives? Not like you to hold back, Mister Pretty Boy."

John chuckled and said, "You know talking like that to your boss usually gets you fired."

"Hah. You've obviously not done much business in Japan then." She smirked and said, "You're not getting rid of me unless you can show I'm either extremely incompetent or that your company's bleeding money... and good luck proving both in court at this point."

"Wait, what?" John blinked. "Seriously?"

"...Did you... not look into how employment works in Japan before setting up your business?" Asako leaned forward and glanced at John's hair. "...I knew you were dense, but I didn't think you were actually a dumb blonde too."

John sighed. "First of all, I'm not dense. I purposefully ignore things to not cause headaches for myself... Though that seems to be working less effectively here. Second of all... Well, I guess I can't deny that I'm pretty dumb sometimes."

He tried his best, but sometimes John wondered if he had mistakenly created an 'idiot ball' and left it in his Heavenly Realm somewhere. That or being called 'idiot savant' by so many immortals had actually stuck that on his Dao or something...

Asako sighed. "Honestly. Do you even have any other staff at Myth Inc.? I'm pretty damned worried if someone like you's making all of the decisions."

John waved his hand. "Don't worry about that. I've just added some reliable co-workers as CFO and COO... as well as someone for general security operations." He paused and said, "Come to think of it, I should get everyone together for a staff meet up."

Since everyone had been hard at work, they had also all missed each other recently and hadn't gotten into contact.

Bai was working remotely because he had to always go back and forth from the municipal offices to handle the paperwork.

Qing was in and out as well, looking for reliable people to fill the lower positions.

And then Takashi was still finishing up his affairs at work before turning in his resignation.

Then, what with the streaming schedules of Rin, Alphy, and Beta doing whatever she was doing...

Yeah. It'd probably be a good idea to arrange a get together... Maybe a potluck celebration after Asako's debut? That'd be best...

Asako leaned over the table and snapped her fingers. "Hello? Earth to Mister Smith?"

John blinked and said, "Sorry. Lost in thought."

Asako sighed. "Sheesh. Miss Beta must have been carrying this company hard until now. No wonder she's been getting all of those things. Must have a crap ton of pent-up stress to work off."

"...Things?"

Asako coughed. "D-Don't worry about it. Anyway... We done here? I've still gotta practice that stupid dance routine and song list for the debut... And get over not cringing at myself." She sighed and ran her hand through her hair before looking at John. "How the hell did you manage to get over that anyway?"

John gazed off into the distance, his eyes turning dim for a moment, remembering his dark past. And then he shrugged and said, "Legacy of a misspent youth."

"...Uh-huh."

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

A small udon shop on the first floor of the Roppongi mall.

"Yosh!" Maji pulled up a strainer full of udon noodles and poured it into a bowl before handing it over to Kiri. "Your turn, Kiri-chan! Don't mess it up for our first customer!"

"Hn." The former Yakuza Dragon grabbed the bowl and walked over to a boiling pot, scooping up some broth with a ladle before pouring it in. Afterwards, he grabbed some freshly chopped greens and garnished the bowl before sliding it across the countertop towards Saji.

The burly man took it and walked it over to a private booth in the corner where a young woman was waiting. "Here you are, Miss."

The young woman nodded, tucking a strand of her blonde hair behind her ear. "That's pretty fast service." Her sharp brown eyes glanced at the curtain hiding the kitchen in the back and said, "Your chefs must be pretty skilled."

Saji smirked and said, "That's a trade secret. Though..." He frowned and stared at the young woman. "What's a girl like you doing here so early in the morning by herself? You're pretty gutsy too to walk in a shop with a guy like me manning the desk."

The blonde young woman picked up the bamboo chopsticks on the table and pulled them apart before saying, "I could say the same to you. It's pretty gutsy for an obvious former yakuza to run an udon shop in Roppongi of all places."

Saji laughed. "That's true." He waved and said, "Enjoy your food, Miss. I'll be at the counter if you need anything."

Yuri shook her head and then looked at the udon noodles. "Hm..." She twirled some noodles around her chopsticks and then blew on them. After some hesitation, she took a bit and-

"Eh? It... tastes good?"

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

Shu Yozora let out a sigh and hefted her backpack on her way to school. As she did, she glanced at a piece of paper in her hands. "I'm running short again this month..."

It was the sheet for her apartment's rent. The usual price, nothing outrageous. But it was still more than what she could pay. Well, that wasn't completely true.

Shu frowned and pulled out her phone, checking her account balance. "Mister Smith still hasn't taken back his money... Is it okay to use it?"

It was a lot of money. And she had given a note to the receptionist at his company too, but he still didn't take the tip back.

Maybe it was on purpose then?

"...But it's still not enough." Shu sighed.

It could help pay for the month's rent, but she still had to pay for school, food, and other things too. And her current jobs weren't paying enough.

Shu tucked her phone away and stared at the paper, idly walking down the sidewalk towards her school.

Downtown Tokyo. The shadier part where the apartments were cheaper. Honestly, not a place where a young woman like Shu should be living, but she was confident in defending herself against creeps and surprise attacks.

After all, when she grew up dealing with that crazy grandfather who kept trying to make her takeover the dojo by force, it was hard not to be able to handle ambushes.

But this was still a problem...

"Do I have to take another job?" Shu sighed and tucked the paper away into her pocket, continuing on her way. But then she noticed something pinned to the wall of a building nearby.

A non-descript piece of paper. One of the countless other shady part-time job offers. It was something that she usually would have ignored... but she noticed that it was more professional than the other ones. Not only that, but it seemed new.

Out of curiosity, Shu walked over and checked the paper. "Searching for new talents... High pay, no experience necessary. Call for an audition...?"

Shady. Suuuper shady.

Shu immediately wanted to ignore it. But then she saw the name of the person behind it. "...Eh? John Smith?"

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

A certain hospital that Sakura was intimately familiar with.

There, a woman with bright eyes and wavy shoulder-length black hair stood in shock, staring at the elderly hospital director. "P-Pardon? Could you repeat that again?"

The hospital director shook his head. "I said you're fired." He ran his hands through his silver hair and said, "I'm sorry to say it, Iyasu-san, but an error as big as this can't be ignored."

Eri Iyasu stepped forward, shaking her head. "B-But I don't understand! Miss Hibana was fine to leave! All of her readings came back normal!"

"And that's exactly why." The hospital director sighed and said, "A patient with severe ovarian cancer suddenly healing overnight? Do you know what breakthroughs we could have had from keeping her here?"

"B-Breakthroughs?" Eri's eyes widened. "You mean that you would keep her here just for that?"

"...Hah. This is why I hate hiring naive people."

"P-Pardon?"

The hospital director held out a stack of papers and said, "You're fired, Iyasu-san. And... sorry to say it, but I doubt you'll be able to find another job in this field after that mistake. We'll give you some compensation... but it might be best to look into other plans." He gave Eri a once over and said, "You're attractive enough and fairly young. I'm sure that you'll find a high paying job out there if you look hard enough."

Eri blinked, numbly clutching the papers. Still in shock, she didn't catch the director's crude suggestion. Instead, she bowed her head and said, "T-Then... I... thank you for having me, Sir. I'll... I'll be going then."

Tucking the papers under her left arm, she turned around and walked off toward her apartment, her mind in a daze.

Fired? She wouldn't be able to find another job in the medical field? And all because she signed off on Miss Hibana leaving early?

A blur. Before Eri knew it, she was sitting in her apartment, staring at the stack of papers. The compensation package.

It was generous. After all, she had done great work and was an expert. But...

"It's... over. It's... really over."

She muttered and then leaned her head on her table.

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

"I'm off, Chi-chan." Takashi waved at his daughter before walking out the door. "Remember to lock up before you leave for school, alright?"

"Yes, Papa. I remember."

Takashi stopped to stare at his daughter, a faint worry in his eyes. But he nodded and said, "I'll pick you up after school today, so don't linger around. Love you."

Chihiro waved her hand. "I love you too."

The door closed, and then Chihiro was left alone.

The young woman brushed her bangs out of her eyes and walked over to her room. Her long black hair shimmered in the daylight shining through the window, making it like almost blue. Sitting back down at her desk, she adjusted her red-rimmed glasses and carefully read the page she pulled up.

"Auditions for Project MirAIs... beginning next week." She paused and said, "...Should I try out?"

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

John froze, rubbing the back of his neck.

Asako glanced at him, frowning. "What? Was my singing so bad it made the hairs on the back of your neck stand up or something?"

John shook his head. "No. I just..." He frowned and glanced out the window of the streaming studio, looking into the distance. "...My instincts are telling me that my life's going to get complicated real soon. But that doesn't make any sense..."

Asako shrugged. "Maybe your wife's touched down in Japan on her plane?"

John frowned. "I doubt it. I'm pretty sure that I would sense it if she was anywhere close."

Asako raised an eyebrow. "You guys have that much of a bond?"

"You could say that..." John couldn't shake off the feeling that something odd was going on. Paired with the fact that things had been calm for a while now...

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

The Mall of America in the United States.

Kai leaned over a railway, smiling as he watched Tsuki have fun interacting with all of the famous American cartoon character mascots.

Tsuki turned to look at Kai and smiled, waving at him.

He waved back and then watched as she went around to talk to some of the other kids there, making friends.

Seeing that made Kai regret it a bit.

If he had known that Elise had been pregnant... if he had known that one night was enough- No, if he had checked back even once... Then maybe-

A soft tap on his right shoulder.

"Hm?" Kai glanced back, confused at who would interrupt his thoughts.

"Pardon me." A beautiful young teenaged girl with flowing, light green hair and a fluffy white dress. She held the hand of a young girl that looked to be around ten years old behind her, a girl with equally strange hair that was a light green with blonde highlights. And like the teenager, the girl wore a white dress as well.

Kai blinked and straightened, turning around to look at the two properly. "Can I help you?"

Even while he said that, he glanced around the surroundings.

It was strange. The pair stuck out like a sore thumb. Yet, nobody noticed them. They were standing in the middle of hundreds of people with such a flashy appearance, but not a single person turned to look.

Subconsciously, Kai shifted his stance, glancing back at Tsuki just in case.

Did the Rothschild send someone to steal Tsuki back? Would he have to make a break for it here?

Countless thoughts and hypotheticals flashed through Kai's mind as he considered the pair in front of him.

But none of them prepared him for what actually occurred.

The young teenaged girl nodded and said, "I believe you can. You see, I'm searching for my husband, and I believe that you can help me find him."

Kai blinked. "Your... husband?"

A young girl like that had a husband? Were things... really that different in America?

Kai was confused, but he slowly nodded and said, "I'm not sure if I can... but alright. What's his name? And what does he look like?" 

The pair seemed lost and out of sorts, so he might as well reach out to his contacts in the area to help them out... assuming they weren't spies or enemies. But they didn't seem to be.

The young girl sighed and said, "I told you this was a bad idea, Mom. Besides, that guy doesn't like much more reliable than my worthless Father."

"Now Meggie, be polite."

Kai blinked.

Mom? Worthless Father?

His eyes narrowed, his opinion of the young woman- No, the young teenager's 'husband' dropping by the second.

The teenaged girl smiled and said, "My apologies for my daughter's harsh words. She is... quite put out by her father suddenly leaving us."

"I see."

"In any case... My name is Yue." The teenaged girl pulled the girl behind her closer and said, "This is my daughter, Meggie. And we're looking for my husband, John Smith."

Kai froze.

John... Smith?

As in... That guy? His friend?

...Nah. Couldn't be. Right?

Kai shook his head and said, "I'm afraid you'll need to be a bit more specific, Miss Yue. John Smith is quite the common name."

She nodded. "He did mention that to be the case... Well, he has illustrious golden hair, a bright smile, clear blue eyes that seem to shimmer a cold jade hue when he gets upset, a tendency to draw beautiful woman towards him... Ah, and he has two other daughters that should be by his side at the moment, Alpha and Beta."

Kai groaned and ran his hand through his graying hair. "...Dammit John."

Next chapter will be Asako's debut stream!

Thanks for reading, especially to the lurkers and guests! I definitely don't say it often enough, but I appreciate you guys too!

And now for a fun bonus... If you want to get a sneak peak at some extra stuff and what I was troubleshooting all night...

[Open the Gate]

The password... Well, it might be hard or it might be easy to guess. If you make it in, I'll see you on the other side. 

Good luck!

...And please don't crash my poor site. 

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