Monday, November 25th 2024. 6:30 AM. The streaming studio at the top of Myth Inc. HQ.
Rin sat at a table near the back of the room, watching Asako stream. As she did, she sipped on a caramel mocha that Beta got for her, smiling at the sweet and creamy warmth. With that, and snuggled in her usual tiger pajama set, she took a look around the room.
Asako was standing in front of the wall monitors, already streaming as Aoko.
Managing the stream, Beta sat behind the central streaming desktop, carefully observing the different programs and readings to ensure the stream went well.
And then there was Alpha sitting across from Rin at the table, wearing her favorite panda pajama set. Like Rin, she had a coffee that Beta got for her. A regular mocha with whipped cream on the top. And also like Rin, her eyes were on Asako, watching the Seiryuu Heiress act. After taking a sip from the mocha, Alpha lowered her cup and said, "I think Asako's getting the hang of it."
Rin nodded and set down her mocha as well. "Aneue's doing a good job of handling her chat too. Although, her style is a bit-"
Asako crossed her arms and then glared at the monitor, causing Aoko to do the same on the other side. "Yeah? You guys like being called bastard that much, huh? Then I've got a perfect name for you guys filled with 'spirit'." She smirked and drew two characters on the screen. 気様 "Ki-sama. How do you like that?"
"...Rough." Rin sighed and said, "Aneue is definitely rough."
Alpha giggled and sipped her mocha. "Well she definitely doesn't pull any punches. But..." She glanced at Asako's chat and said, "I don't think her chat does either."
Asako blinked and then she looked panicked. "O-Oi! What do you mean you bastards are fine with that?! Are you really? Really?! Can't you read?!"
After that, her chat filled with 'lol', 'www' and '草'.
Rin laughed. "That's just Aneue's charm." She smiled and then looked towards Alpha. "Though, it's pretty similar to Onee-chan's too."
Alpha's crimson eyes widened. "Me?"
Rin nodded. "Mmhm! Both you and Aneue look super cool and aloof." She giggled. "But both of you aren't at all. Onee-chan is super cuddly and cute while Aneue is awkward and hard-working." She looked over, watching Asako fumble around in scolding her chat. "This really isn't her sort of thing, but she tries hard. That makes Aneue cute too, but different from Onee-chan."
Alpha sipped her mocha and looked at Asako. "Mm, I can see that. Asako *does* put in a lot of hours practicing in the streaming studio with Betty."
"Mmhm. Ah!" Rin shifted her gaze back to Alpha. "Speaking of Eldest Sister... There was something I wanted to ask you about."
Alpha sighed. "You're still calling Betty that?"
Rin nodded. "Of course! Eldest Sister is Eldest Sister."
"...Well, at least Betty knows how I feel now."
Rin tilted her head. "Hm?"
"Nothing, Rin. You were saying?"
Rin glanced at Beta and then gestured for Alpha to lean forward.
Alpha frowned, but then leaned over.
Rin cupped her mouth with her left hand, blocking her voice from Beta's direction, and said, "Did you notice? Eldest Sister has been wearing a lot of the same clothes as Aneue."
Alpha paused and then stared at Beta.
Like Rin mentioned, Beta wore clothes a bit different from her usual attire. Rather than fashionable outfits suited for a model, she was wearing a baggy Nikey's sweatshirt along with a pair of Nikey's shorts that stopped in the middle of her thighs, showing off her long and delicate legs.
Alpha glanced over to Asako.
The Seiryuu Heiress was wearing sweatpants instead of shorts, but the outfit was essentially the same.
Realizing that, Alpha blinked and said, "Huh. That's true."
"Right?" Rin whispered and then glanced over at Asako. "And Aneue says she 'spars' with Eldest Sister a lot too in Eldest Sister's room."
Alpha paused and said, "Well... I suppose out of all of us, someone like Asako would be the better sparring partner. Betty is actually... pretty hopeless in actual combat.
"Eh?" Rin blinked and said, "Eldest Sister can't fight?"
Alpha leaned back and took a sip from her mocha. "It's not that she can't fight, but rather..." She tilted her head to think. "Actually, Betty might be the better 'fighter' among all of us, but in terms of combat she's the worst."
Alpha smiled. "It's nothing important. Now." She leaned forward and said, "We talked about my family. What about yours? What did you and your mom stay up to talk about with Asako?"
"Ah. That's..." Rin's face fell.
The conversation from yesterday... Her mother explaining that Asako was her real older sister, but only half. That Rin's father was the infamous yakuza leader who forced himself on her mother when she was around Rin's age... And that Rin was born only because her mother couldn't get an abortion at the time.
Remembering all of that...
A sudden soft pat on the top of her head.
"E-Eh?" Rin blinked and looked up.
Alpha was leaned over the table, her hand stretched out and gently patting Rin's head. But when she saw Rin look at her, Alpha froze and flushed. "S-Sorry." Alpha quickly sat back down and pulled her hand back. "Papa always does that to cheer me up, and you looked sad so I thought..."
"No!" Rin quickly leaned over the table and offered her head. "Please! Pat me more!"
"O-Okay?" Alpha looked shocked and hesitant, but eventually reached out to pat Rin's head again.
Rin smiled, enjoying the light pats.
It wasn't much. Just a simple act, and pretty clumsy too. Even so, it cheered her up a lot.
A warm and approving gesture that had no intentions other than to comfort her.
Realizing that, Rin sighed and said, "You really are like Mister John, Onee-chan."
Alpha blinked, pausing in her pats. "H-Huh? Me? Like Papa?"
Rin nodded. "Mmhm. You're both super kind and warm... I'm kind of jealous, you know?" She leaned back and then sighed. "Sometimes, I wish Mister John was my dad too."
If someone like that was in their life... No, if even someone like uncle Kai had been there...
Alpha leaned back as well. Grabbing her mocha again, she sipped it and said, "Well, I won't share my Papa with anyone else. But you shouldn't worry, Rin." She smiled and said, "After all, we're all here to support you. Right?"
That was right. Even if her biological father was a terrible person, that didn't change the fact that she had a wonderful family right now.
Her mother, who was finally free to pursue her own interests.
Uncle Kai, who was a bit awkward still with her mother, but cared about them.
Tsuki, who was like her little sister.
Miss Betty, who cared about her like the mature big sister.
Asako, who was her real sister by blood, if only half.
Alphy, who was like a fun older sister.
And then Mister John, who was like how a father should be. A person who held up the entire world and made all of her worries go away while letting her fulfill her dreams.
"Oh!" Rin suddenly remembered the other person who appeared the other day. 'Mrs. Smith' and John's wife. She looked back to Alpha and said, "Mister John's wife returned yesterday with your youngest sister, right Onee-chan? Could you tell me about her? Is she your Mom?"
"Ah, that's..." Alpha fidgeted. "...It's complicated."
"That's what Eldest Sister told me last time... Then is Mrs. Smith not your Mom?"
Back in John's apartment, around 7:00 AM. The sun was clear in the sky now, letting out bright rays through the windows and lighting up the room. A warm and comfortable atmosphere.
One made even warmer by the couple seated side-by-side at the living room table, eating breakfast together.
John smiled, sipping his cup of coffee as he stared at his lovely wife.
Yue was seated to John's left, with a giant array of food spread out in front of her. Blueberry pancakes with maple syrup. Freshly squeezed orange juice. Strawberry crepes with fresh cream... and a stack of plates that were already cleaned off.
At the moment, she reached out for the pancakes, using a silver knife and fork to cut off a piece. But then she noticed John staring and flushed. "A-Am I being too messy?"
John laughed. "It's fine. I'm happy to see that you're enjoying my cooking." He smiled and said, "You always ate it without much expression before, so seeing you so happy is a nice change."
Yue flinched and then looked away. "T-That's because I couldn't afford to show weakness. But... I've always loved your cooking, Husband."
John pulled Yue in for a hug and said, "I know, I know. That's why I'm happy that you don't have to do that now." He shifted his gaze to the empty plates and said, "And it looks like the baby's enjoying the food too."
Yue followed John's gaze and then coughed, averting her eyes. "I-I can't help it, okay? It just tastes too good." Saying that, she reached over and cut a piece of the strawberry crepe before eating it. A bit of the cream squeezed out, smearing her lips, but Yue was too embarrassed and just kept eating.
John laughed and then stole a kiss, cleaning the cream off that way.
Yue flinched and then turned a beet-red. "H-Husband!"
John leaned back and smiled. "What?"
Yue huffed, stuffing some more pancake into her mouth. After washing it down with orange juice, she said, "Stop teasing me so much."
"Oh, I wasn't teasing you. I just wanted to see if I made the cream too sweet or if it was the atmosphere."
Yue rolled her eyes. "A likely excuse..." She drank some more orange juice and looked over at John. "Can the air in this world even make food taste sweeter?"
"It can when I'm happy being with my lovely wife."
Yue's eyes widened and then the blush on her face spread down her neck. She huffed and downed the rest of her orange juice. Cutting more pancakes, she took a bite and said, "Your honeyed-tongue hasn't changed at all, I see. Do you still speak those sweet nothings to other women?"
"You mean sweet everythings... But no worries." John took a sip from his coffee and said, "The only woman I flirt with is my beloved wife." He paused. "...Though I might still make unintentional compliments too often. Gotta remember to cut back on that habit of mine."
Yue rolled her eyes. "It's good that I'm around to stop any harlots from stealing away my dear husband then."
John poked her forehead.
"Ow!" Yue frowned. "What was that for?"
John shook his head. "You need to stop thinking like that, Wifey. Not every woman I meet is going to want to get with me. I mean, you've already met Sakura, right?
Yue nodded. "That is true. Miss Sakura definitely has no romantic interest in you... Perhaps Husband's aura of drawing in women has diminished a fraction."
John let out a smug smile. "See?"
Yue glanced over, her eyes a bit cold. "Or perhaps your aura has been attuned to younger beauties instead, like the pair in your organization."
John paused, suddenly thinking about that.
It was true that he had stopped attracting mature beauties towards him. And then there was the fact that Yue looked fairly young... And thinking about the women he'd met since arriving back on Earth...
Asako, Rin, Yuri, that Starbux clerk, the doctor...
All of them seemed to be either teenagers or mid-twenties at the latest.
...Maybe Yue had a point? Since his ideal woman was Yue, did he subconsciously start rejecting women who weren't like her and drawing women who were like her?
Well, not anymore now that he had stopped passively accumulating things, but before that... It made a lot of sense in hindsight...
Yue narrowed her eyes. "Husband? Is there something you're not telling me?"
John shook his head. "Only things I haven't told you yet. Like my business." He frowned and set his cup of coffee down. "I want to make sure you aren't misunderstanding, so could you tell me what Kai told you about it?"
Yue frowned. "I can. Mm..." She stabbed a strawberry and then munched on it. After swallowing, she said, "That man mentioned that you opened an 'idol company.' And he said that idols were young women who performed for crowds and appealed to men, skilled in dancing and singing..." She looked to John, her expression carefully neutral, and said, "Like the Jade Pavilion Courtesans?"
John narrowed his eyes.
That guy... Maybe he should have socked him a bit more.
Yue shook her head and cut off another piece of her pancakes. After eating it, she said, "But Miss Sakura said that you weren't running a business like that. Instead you were helping her daughter and others fulfill their dreams of being world-renowned performers..." She frowned. "That made more sense. I didn't think that you would permit Alphy to be a courtesan after the incident with Betty- Ah. Sorry."
John let out a sigh. "It's fine. It's been a while now and something like that won't happen again."
Yue nodded and ate some more pancakes. After swallowing though, she winced and placing her hands on her belly.
John frowned. "Something not sit well?"
"No. It isn't that." Yue let out a soft smile and said, "The little one is just being a bit lively."
"Here." Yue grabbed John's hand and placed it over her belly. "See?"
John waited, and then there was a soft thump. Barely anything, but a light tap.
Yue smiled, practically glowing.
John smiled back and said, "Seems like the kid's enjoying the food."
Yue huffed and said, "Our child better be enjoying." She finished up her pancakes and started working in earnest on her crepe. "I've already gained so much weight from all the eating our child has made me do."
"Mm." John nodded and said, "You do seem a bit chubbier."
Yue gasped and then lightly swatted John's head. "Rude! You could have kept that opinion to yourself!"
John laughed and pulled Yue in for a kiss.
"You-! Mmph! Mmmm! ...Mm~"
John pulled back and said, "It's fine. I love you just the way you are, Yue, no matter what happens."
Yue leaned back as well, deep red and breathless. She glared at John, but a bright smile was on her face. "That's cheating. You know I'm defenseless to your touch and affection..." She huffed and took another bite from her crepe. "I can't even be mad at you now for having other young women around while I was gone. I should be mad, but now I'm not..."
John pulled her close and said, "That's good. It'll be bad if my Wifey gets jealous of the new hires we have to make and the talents that are auditioning. Especially since there will probably be a lot more applying after-"
A sudden thought crossed John's mind. Something he forgot until just now.
Yue glanced over, frowning. "Husband? What's wrong?"
John slowly shook his head. "One moment."
'Um... Titor? You still there?'
*Yeah? What's up?*
'...Are you still streaming?'
*Of course I am. We've still got a stream slot until noon.*
'...And you've been playing this whole time? Didn't you get through the setlist?'
*I did. So I've been improvising.*
John's instincts told him something was up. He reached into his pocket and then pulled out his phone, quickly navigating to the stream.
"Hm?" Yue noticed and said, "Is it a message? Something urgent?"
"No, just..." John opened the UTube app and played the stream.
Yue leaned over to watch. "For Yue... A concert? For me?"
John nodded. "That's right- Oh." He glanced over and said, "Have you not seen it?"
Yue shook her head, reading the description of the stream. "I didn't realize that husband was doing such a thing for me." A faint flicker of guilt crossed her face. "If I did, I would have contacted you sooner."
John pulled Yue in for a hug and said, "It's fine. I'm a bit bummed that you missed the first few songs, but I can put on a private concert for you later. Just the two of us, alright?"
Yue's eyes widened and she lowered her gaze. "...You're too nice to me."
John smiled, giving her a reassuring squeeze. After that, he turned his attention back to the stream. Turning up the volume, he said, "Let's see what shenanigans Titor is-"
Yue stared at the phone and frowned. "...Is this live? Or have you finally decided to make a clone of yourself?"
"Titor isn't a clone. He's just a... particularly advanced shadow servant created in my self-image?"
"...So a clone?"
"...Sure. Let's go with that. And this guy..."
John watched Titor perform, his hands moving fast enough to blur even on the custom 4K camera rig, and then sighed.
"...He's showing off way too much. No, why the heck is he playing meme songs from years back?"
[amazedant - Holy crap!]
[nightowl - Okay, now he's just showing off]
[righteouspanda - Ah, yes. What better way to impress your wife than with playing impossible remixes of meme songs?]
John groaned. "Oi, Titor-"
The song ended, and then Titor brushed his hands back, smiling. *Thanks for letting me have that fun break. Now, back to our scheduled programming of romance songs. This one is called 'Slowly'. I hope you enjoy, Yue.*
Yue blinked and looked at John.