124 – Settling the Score
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John's office in Myth Inc. HQ. Some time around 10 PM, late Sunday evening.

Sakura crossed her arms, staring at the two men sitting on chairs in front of her to the left and right.

It had been at least ten minutes now. Nothing but tense silence and sharp glares.

John leaned back in his chair, one arm behind its headrest and his left leg crossed over his right like a 4. Despite seemingly relaxed, he somehow looked like he was staring down at everything, his jade eyes giving off the appearance of looking down on the entire world.

Kai wasn't leaned back. In fact, he was leaned forward, his chair spun around so the backrest was blocking his chest. Almost like he had done so to physically restrain himself... which was apparent from the sharp and furious glare he kept sending John.

Sakura waited a bit longer, hoping the two would get their act together. But after another few minutes passed, she let out an exasperated sigh and said, "Alright, you idiots. Someone tell me what the hell happened."

John looked over and said, "I'll start then. You see-"

"I happened to come across John's wife and his youngest daughter."

John narrowed his eyes.

Kai smiled, but one that didn't reach his eyes.

Ugh. These two...

Sakura shook her head and looked to John. "I remember you mentioning that they came back." She smiled and laughed. "What? Don't tell me Kai tried to flirt with her or something."

John shook his head. "I wouldn't be this pissed if he did. Still pissed, but not this pissed. Yue's definitely beautiful and lovely enough to draw that attention. But." His eyes flashed as he looked at Kai. "This bastard did something worse."

"Oh shut up. You're making it sound like I slept with her or something."

John laughed. "As if *that* would ever happen. Yue would rip you apart before you even touched her." He stopped laughing, a cold smile on his face. "No. You just *happened* to forget to call me and let me know they were safe. And you just *happened* to let them watch Asako's stream and give them the worst impression. And you just *happened* to forget to call afterwards so that we could clear up this misunderstanding."

Kai narrowed his eyes. "Misunderstanding? What's there to misunderstand? A young mother and her young daughter show up at the Mall of America without any clothes, cash, or communication devices. Luckily, they met me. But what if it had been someone else? Just how irresponsible could you-"

Sakura sighed and said, "Kai, shut up."

Kai flinched and looked at her. "Sakura-!"

She shook her head. "I said, shut up." She narrowed her eyes and said, "You're being an ass."

"Tch." Kai turned his head to the side and then pulled a cigarette from his suit.

"And stop that." Sakura walked over and wrenched the cigarette away from him.

Kai glared at her, but then sighed and just stared at the ground, idly swinging his hands.

Sakura tossed the cigarette in the nearby trash bin and then sat back down, looking back at John.

The blonde man had adopted a neutral expression again. Disinterested and disappointed rather than upset. No, he was clearly holding himself back. But he hid it better than Kai. More composed. And as if to prove that... "You should stop projecting your problems onto me."

Kai stopped swinging his hands and then straightened. "I am *not* projecting."

John shook his head. "Well it's either that or you're a dumb kid who's very good at playing grown up."

"You-!"

"Kai!" Sakura cut him off.

Kai glanced at her and then pointed at John. "Why are you taking his side?!"

"Because he's right. You're projecting, and you're acting like a brat. So stop it."

"And what do you-!?" Kai cut himself off and then huffed, turning his head to the side to avoid looking at either John or Sakura.

Sakura sighed. After seeing Kai act like that, she was starting to realize why John had called her here.

Since Kai had a daughter now and had stepped away from the yakuza underworld, Sakura thought that he had grown up. Or at least tempered that hot head of his. But it seemed like time had just buried it to burn hotter rather than cool it.

Sakura turned to John and said, "Alright John. Let's hear it. What happened? From the start."

John looked at Kai.

Kai scoffed and waved his hand, as if telling John to continue.

John nodded and looked to Sakura. "It's a long story, as I said. But basically... You know how I recently arrived in Japan, right?"

Sakura nodded. "Around the same time you saved my Sweetie, right?"

"That's right." John adjusted his sleeves and said, "I had just finished taking care of some important business and wanted to get some time to myself. To visit my home. And because of that, I left my wife and youngest daughter behind... but I ended up getting rerouted in Japan."

Kai scoffed. "Likely story."

"Kai." Sakura glared at him. "Go ahead, John."

John nodded. "You pretty much know the rest, but I was setting things up here so that we could settle down. Where we had been overseas was a bit... rough to say the least."

"Yeah. And you took your two older daughters with you while leaving Meggie behind." Kai cut in.

"They followed me without me knowing. Like my wife and youngest daughter, apparently." John crossed his arms. "I kept saying that it was too dangerous, but it seemed like nobody wanted to listen to me... And apparently my friend didn't think it was a good idea to let me know either." He looked at Kai, his eyes cold. "It's funny, because I would have thought my friend would know first hand just how concerning it would be to not know where the one you love is."

Kai bristled and said, "That still doesn't change the fact that you left them behind without telling them where you were going! And you didn't call them either! Yue and Meggie didn't even know where your home state was!"

"Because I couldn't call them, dammit! What do I have to tell you to get it through that thick skull of yours! You already saw firsthand the type of situation we were in. You think I could just casually call her up and say where I was?!"

Kai flinched, but then he narrowed his eyes and said, "Well then maybe you shouldn't have left in the first place!"

"You fu-" John let out a deep breath. "...Alright. I'm going to do what a good friend should do and not curse you out. Even if I should beat your ass for saying that."

Kai jumped to his feet, knocking over his chair. "Try me!"

"Fine by me." John stood up as well and walked forward, rolling up his sleeves.

Sakura looked between the two men.

It seemed like she was missing some important information... but it seemed like she got the gist of it.

Basically, Kai found John's wife and youngest daughter overseas looking for him without money, luggage, or a way to contact John.

John said that he didn't know they had gone looking for him... And that made sense. From all the times that Sakura had talked with John, it was clear that he loved his family. He wasn't the guy to purposefully leave them behind like what Kai was saying.

And Kai should realize that too. So then why-

"John. Wait a bit."

John glared at Kai, but then he nodded and stepped back.

Kai looked at him and smirked, triumphant.

"And wipe that ugly grin off your face, Kai. I have questions. For you."

Kai froze, and then frowned. He crossed his arms and said, "I didn't do anything wrong. It's that guy's fault for not letting them know where he was going."

"This again..." John shook his head and rubbed the bridge of his nose. "Did this guy get smacked too hard by Maji? I could have sworn he was smarter than this..."

"Yeah." Kai rounded on John and said, "And I could have sworn you were smart enough to have at least left people to watch your wife and daughter if you were going to leave for so long. You managed those three legends, and then there were those other guys. Don't tell me there aren't-"

*smack*

A loud slap.

Kai's eyes widened and he looked at Sakura, shocked.

Sakura lowered her right hand and then tucked a strand of hair behind her left ear. "What? I told you to wipe that ugly grin off your face. You didn't listen."

Kai blinked, still shocked.

Sakura sighed and then shook her head. "Look, Kai. I thought we went over this already." She frowned and said, "What happened to me couldn't be helped. You trusted the guy who gave the job, I trusted the guy... It just happened."

In hindsight, they had both been at fault. Her for wanting money so fast, and him for not checking up. But they were kids. Irresponsible idiots, like all kids were.

Kai grabbed his cheek and then frowned, lowering his gaze. "I know. I know it couldn't be helped. But." He narrowed his eyes and then pointed at John. "It could for him! If he had checked up even once! If he made one call...!"

John didn't even look angry anymore. His expression had turned neutral, only staring at Kai with a steady gaze.

Sakura narrowed her eyes, staring at Kai.

He was being irrational. He had always been hotheaded, but like this... it was like John had crossed his bottom line or something.

But that didn't make sense. Sakura knew plenty of men who were worse fathers than John who left for even longer. Not only that, but they cheated on their wives as well.

John on the other hand was the perfect husband. Flaunting his wedding ring in his interview. Burning through his assets to try and find his wife and youngest daughter somewhere out in the world.

Kai should have known all of that. After all, he was a businessman and had contacts in the field even now.

Not only that, but she was sure that Kai ran across other men who were worse than John before in his work. The Japanese workforce was filled with salarymen like that.

So then why?

Sakura frowned, carefully staring at Kai's face to find an answer.

"Didn't you know? Yue was sick. Meggie said that her mother had been nauseous for weeks and kept fainting. What if that happened back in America when they hadn't found anyone? What would you do then?"

"...Meg is responsible enough to know what to do."

"You're going to rely on a little girl to take care of her mother?!"

Sakura opened her mouth to scold Kai, her eyes sharp. But then she realized it.

Kai... wasn't really looking at John. He was turned in the guy's direction, but his eyes were a bit dazed. Distant. As if looking at something- No, someone else.

And then those words, no those accusations...

At first, Sakura thought they might be about her. After all, life with Rin had been... trying. And she thought he was guilty about never finding her after all these years and not knowing if she was alive or dead.

But...

"Kai." Sakura's eyes softened and she said, "How did you find out about Tsuki?"

Kai froze.

John blinked. "What does Tsuki have to- Oh." He frowned and said, "That... suddenly makes a lot of sense. We hate most what we see in ourselves, after all."

Kai swung his arm and said, "Tsuki has nothing to do with this!"

"But her mother does." Sakura stepped towards Kai and looked at him. "Doesn't she?"

Kai looked at Sakura and stepped back. "She... Elise...!"

Sakura stepped forward again. "Kai."

Kai clicked his tongue and looked away.

Sakura closed the gap and then reached out, turning his head towards her.

Kai's eyes widened, blurring a bit with tears.

She let out a faint smile and said, "Kai-kun. Do you want to talk about it?"

"Sakura..." Kai's eyes widened, his lips opening and closing, hesitating to speak. And then he shook his head and staggered back. He turned around and then leaned on the wall, covering his face. "I...! If I had checked in once with her...! Dammit!"

Sakura sighed.

Kai... it seemed like she hadn't been the only one he couldn't save. Or maybe it was that he regretted his decision.

Sakura was happy that he was safe and kept looking for her... But how much anguish would that have caused him?

Here she was, safe and sound along with her daughter. But *his* daughter and her mother... From the way he reacted to John, it was clear that he did the same thing. No, worse.

That regret...

John let out a deep sigh. And then he reached over to his left shoulder and tossed his shirt off. Immediately, a chiseled upper torso with a golden dragon tattoo on its back was revealed to the world.

Sakura blushed. "J-John?!" She quickly recovered though and then huffed. "You can't do that in front of women!"

John blinked and then coughed. "My bad. Don't tell Yue... Oh right. You should actually go talk to her. Probably best to head off that conversation... She's in Alphy's room. You know where, right?"

Sakura slowly nodded. "I... believe so? But..." She stared at John's bare torso, particularly the golden dragon tattoo, and then shifted her gaze to Kai. "What are you going to do?"

Her childhood sweetheart looked catatonic, still trapped in self-loathing.

"Me? Well... We tried talking things out. And thanks for stopping by. It really helped set some things straight."

"You're... welcome?" Sakura blinked. "Wait, what are you-"

John walked up to Kai and then grabbed his shoulder.

The man flinched and then looked up, his eyes flashing red. "The fu-"

Rustling cloth. The sound of someone being thrown through the air... and then a crash. Kai landed on the ground and groaned before forcing himself up to his feet, glaring at John.

"J-John?!"

John cracked his knuckles and said, "Don't worry, Sakura. Men talk best with their fists. Now... If you don't mind..."

As if waiting for his cue, the elevator doors opened.

Sakura blinked and then sighed. "Fine. But if either are you in the hospital by tomorrow morning..."

"It won't get that far. Right Kai?"

"Oh I'll try my damndest to take it that far."

John laughed and raised his fists. "To have eyes but not see Mt. Tai... Even here that's true, huh?"

Men...

Sakura shook her head and then walked into the elevator, pressing the floor to the recording studio. As the doors closed...

"Step forward if you want to die!"

"Stop showing off, asshole!"

...Sakura sighed. "Those two really are birds of a feather, huh?"

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

Hiding in the corner of an alleyway, a woman with fox ears and flowing red hair peered out. Her white robes shifted as she did, revealing a bit of her skin beneath while her crimson eyes scanned the surroundings.

"Are they gone, Daji?"

The fox woman's ears twitched and she looked back, nodding. "It looks like it."

A beautiful woman with silky black hair and a string instrument at her side. Wang Zhaojun, John's junior sister and technical disciple. She adjusted her white martial uniform and said, "To think that Senior Brother's home is so dangerous... To think a single note of mine caused such a profound blast of force in those metal contraptions..."

"You shouldn't underestimate this world, Little Zhao." A divine beauty with a crimson silk gown and golden threads. Jiutian Xuannu. She sighed and said, "It's able to eat away at even Divine Authorities... Though it's strange." She held up her right hand and said, "It seems to have accepted me this time... Is it because the Timeless Savant acknowledged us?"

"Whatever!" Daji hopped over and grabbed Xuannu's gown. "You said that you could bring us to where big brother and big sister are! Where are they?"

Zhaojun turned to look as well, fiddling with her instrument. "That is correct... You promised that we would arrive without fail. So, where are we?"

Xuannu smiled and carefully pried away Daji's hands. "Calm yourself, Little Fox." She looked over to the side and said, "Our guide has arrived."

"Hm?" Daji blinked and turned her head.

Zhaojun followed her gaze.

There, at the end of the alleyway. A person that emerged in a spatial distortion, wielding an azure sword.

Qing looked at the three women, his eyes growing wide in recognition. And then he cursed and covered his face. Shaking his head, he said,  "Master John does not pay me enough to deal with his crazy affairs..."

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