The parking lot outside of Myth Inc. HQ, the area secured by some discreet shadow servants.
John rolled down his window and looked at the two young women standing nearby. "Are you sure you two can handle it by yourselves?"
Rin smiled and pumped a fist in the air. "Leave it to us, Mister John!"
Asako nodded and said, "We've got it. You just worry about taking your beautiful wife and kids out shopping... and handling all the attention."
"I'm used to dealing with that. But you guys..."
After running through some drills, Rin insisted that John take Yue and his daughters out for a family get together to celebrate the new baby.
"Are you sure you two know how to handle the streaming equipment?"
Asako waved her hand and said, "Don't worry about it. The worst that happens is we crash the stream, right? It's not like our real faces will pop up or anything." She paused. "Right?"
"I made triple sure of that in designing the streaming setup, so there's no worry about that. But..."
"Dad." Omega looked up from her Switch in the back of the car and rolled her eyes. "Can we go already? Geez, you're taking up so much time."
Beta nodded from beside Omega and said, "Yes. I have also made sure that the setup is completely foolproof after the mishaps Eldest Sister and Rin had in their last stream."
Alpha blushed on the other side of Omega and said, "I-I figured it out, didn't I?"
"After wasting fifteen minutes or so, yes."
"Hmph!" Omega smirked and said, "So Big Sister Alpha isn't the best at everything after all!"
Alpha blinked and looked over to Omega, confused. "...I never was?"
"E-Eh? But I thought..."
John sighed and ignored his daughters bantering in the back. Turning back to Asako, he said, "Well, if you have any troubles call me, alright? I'll send some guys over to fix things up."
Like Qing and Bai.
Well, Qing was busy playing host to John's guests... who he still needed to meet with. But that was something for later. Anyway, Qing was also handling the initial talent screening so he would be too busy.
But Bai should just be messing around with his gacha games, so he should be free to help out in an emergency.
And there was Titor too, but he had a feeling things would get out of control pretty quickly with that guy, so it'd be best to leave him as a last resort...
Rin smiled. "It'll be fine, Mister John! If we can't get the studio working, I can always stream from my laptop in Onee-chan's room too."
"Mm... I suppose that could work in a pinch." John nodded. "Then I'll leave you-"
"Wait." Omega spoke up from the back and then peered out at Rin. "Onee-chan? Which Onee-chan?"
"Hm?" Rin blinked and said, "Alphy? Who else?"
Omega blinked back and then narrowed her eyes. "So you're the one..."
Omega suddenly hugged Alpha and pulled her close.
"M-Meggie?" Alpha blushed, confused at the sudden affection.
"You're my big sister, right Alphy?"
"Then why is she calling you Onee-chan?"
John sighed. "Can we not do this right now?"
Omega looked up and John and said, "I want to know! Alphy is *my* big sister! And Betty too! Right?" She turned to look at Beta.
Beta nodded. "I am indeed your elder sister, Meggie."
"So you won't replace me with a weak young woman like that, right?" She pointed to Rin.
"E-Eh? Replace?" Rin blinked and then shook her head. "Oh no! I don't mean to replace you or anything, Meggie-"
"It's Omega! Ex Nihilo Omega! And you stay away from my-"
"We're going." John's curt voice cut off the conversation. After that, he waved at Asako and Rin and then drove off, closing the window.
As he did, he felt the start of a headache coming along.
So this was what it was like to be a father of teenaged daughters, huh...? Dammit. He didn't even get the sweet and cute parts of them being a toddler...
"What did you do that for, Dad?!" Omega crossed her arms and glared at John's reflection in the rearview mirror. "I didn't finish talking yet!"
"The conversation was over. And you were being rude."
"Rude? I'm not the one who tried to butt in on-!"
Yue, quiet up until that point, let out a soft sigh from the passenger side seat. "Meggie. Please don't raise your voice against your father."
Omega's eyes widened and then she huffed, turning her head.
John sighed and then focused on the road. The plan was to go shopping at the mall for some clothes and then stop by grocery stores for essentials. Mostly female hygiene stuff for Yue now that she had to deal with mortal female woman stuff due to being pregnant.
The mall wasn't far from where they were at, but since it was around lunchtime there was a bit of traffic. Meaning that they'd be stuck together in John's black Ferrari for probably a half hour.
...Well, nothing like a car ride to develop family bonds, right?
Alpha looked at her youngest sister and frowned. "Meggie."
John resisted the urge to tell Meg to not raise her voice. He was better than that. He wouldn't be the parent who snapped at his kids. Right. He definitely wouldn't.
And it seemed like he didn't have to.
Omega's sharp voice made Alpha flinch.
Seeing that, Omega lowered her gaze and muttered, "Sorry."
Alpha smiled and patted Omega's head. "It's fine. You were worried, right?"
Omega mumbled. "...It's not fair. How come I'm the one always left out?"
Hearing that soft voice caused a flicker of guilt to pass through John's heart.
...Meg had a point. Somehow or another, she did end up being the one left out of things.
She had been pretty mature and intelligent since she was born, and capable too. When John took her along with him to deal with things, she picked things up quick and eventually got to be able to handle sect affairs, fighting, and other things on her own.
But it seemed like John made a mistake then. Just because she was capable of doing all of that shouldn't mean that John should have left her alone.
Alphy was alright because she hadn't been completely sentient at the beginning.
Betty was fine because she was intelligent enough to sort out her emotions and mental state on her own without John's help.
But Meg... No, Meggie.
Without realizing it, it seemed that John had instinctively compared her to her older sisters and treated her the same.
But she wasn't. Unlike the other two, she was more of a 'person' rather than an 'automaton.' At least, more of a normal child than one constructed from divine treasures.
And even then, looking into the mirror back at his youngest daughter...
A small girl nestled between her older sisters. Light green hair with blonde highlights at the end, golden eyes and a cute face.
She was someone capable of sending ancient immortals running in fear, capable of calculating inventory for entire martial sects in an instant, and also a skilled negotiator...
But she was also a child. His child, and the youngest one that he treated as a grown-up far too soon.
The low rumble of the car engine. Faint traffic echoing from outside.
Other than those sounds, the car was silent. It seemed that no one knew quite how to respond to Omega's words.
Yue glanced back at Omega through the rearview mirror. It seemed like she wanted to say something, but felt like it wasn't her place to speak. So instead, she shifted her gaze to John.
Seeing that, John sighed. "Meggie."
"Hmph." Omega glanced at John and then looked away, pointedly staring out the window.
John paused to consider his words. His youngest daughter was clearly hurting, and the cause of it was him. So he couldn't take it lightly.
"...What?" Omega looked up and said, "Nothing to say after all, Dad?"
Omega's eyes widened but then she huffed and turned her gaze away. "...That's not enough."
"I know. I hurt you pretty bad just leaving like that."
"W-What do you mean? Hurt? Me? A-As if." Omega glanced at John and then averted her gaze again. "I didn't even care about traveling with you in the void anyway!"
A clear lie. Unlike Beta, who had a calm poker face, or Alpha, who could clamp down on her emotions if she wanted to, Omega's emotions were clear on her face. The most emotional out of his three daughters.
Alpha pursed her lips. She looked at Omega like she wanted to pull her into a hug. But she also hesitated, looking at John and waiting for him to continue.
John sighed and said, "I'll be honest." He looked through the rearview mirror at the car occupants.
Yue, his beloved wife seated beside him in her white maternity dress and an olive green long coat.
Betty, in the back behind John with a beige coat and jeans.
Alphy, in the back behind Yue with a cozy panda hoodie and jeans.
And Meggie, seated between her sisters in a fuzzy pink coat with cat ears that was made to match the one Tsuki owned.
Staring at his family, his wife and daughters, John shook his head and said, "I've been a bad dad and husband."
Everyone except for Omega immediately opened their mouths to refute him, but John continued.
"And don't say that I haven't. I know I have." He paused. "...Well, according to the logic of the Three Realms, I guess I'm better than most."
After all, there were cultivators who literally dumped their children off in the wild to force them to gain enlightenment or killed their own children to sever karma and carve a new Dao...
In short, negligence at best, abuse at worst.
"But regardless, I know that I could have been better. Could be better. And especially with one thing in particular."
"Yeah?" Omega looked up and said, "And what's that then, all-powerful father?"
"Saying how much I love you. All of you."
Silence fell in the car again. Not a tense one, but one with a mixed air. A tangible... awkwardness? No, uncertainty.
The traffic shifted forward, and John merged onto the main highway heading towards the mall. As he did, he continued.
"Back then, we were in a place where we couldn't afford to say anything. Where any sign of weakness would result in unending hostilities and challenges. But we aren't anymore. And so I'll say it now. The words that I should have said anyway."
He looked to Alpha and said, "Alphy. My oldest daughter. You've been with me the longest and had to endure so many hardships. At the time when I should have been protecting you, you were the one who ended up protecting me. And really... if not for you I wouldn't have been able to get through those years. Emotionally as well as physically. So... Thank you. And I'm sorry that you never got the chance to grow up normally."
Alpha's crimson eyes widened before they started glistening with tears. "Papa..." She shook her head and said, "It's fine." She smiled and said, "I'm happy. Happy that Papa lived. Happy that I can be here with you today. That's... More than enough."
John looked to Beta next and said, "Betty. My brilliant and intelligent second daughter. I relied on you a lot too. Because I lacked experience and maturity, you ended up dealing with a lot of our affairs... and then because I thought you were infallible, that incident happened and you almost suffered a terrible fate. That..." Regret passed through John's eyes and he said, "...I'll never be able to apologize enough for that."
Beta's eyes shifted colors as she stared at John. Red, orange, blue, indigo, violet... they shifted through all of the colors of the rainbow before stopping on a jade hue, the same color as John's. "...That's enough, Father." She averted her gaze, brushing tears away from her eyes. "...You shouldn't... apologize to me. That's something you... Please." Her usual calm expression crumpled, showing uncertainty and sorrow. "...In the beginning, that time I was the one who-"
"Don't you dare blame yourself now, Betty." John smiled and said, "This is my time to play the self-pity game, alright?"
Beta stilled and then laughed, shaking her head. Her eyes shifted back to her usual shade of orange and she nodded. "Fine. But... I appreciate you, Father."
John shifted his gaze to Yue. "Wifey. Yue. The love of my life and forevermore... I could say a lot of words, and I've already said a lot to you. In fact, I've said so much that words have pretty much lost their meaning."
Yue rolled her eyes and said, "Get on with it, Husband."
"Right. Then I'll keep it simple. No matter how it may seem, no matter how many others try to change my mind and my heart, no matter if existence itself tries to come between us, I'll always come back to you and you alone. This isn't a promise, but an oath on my very being as John Smith. Alright? So... Please don't worry about me leaving you anymore."
Yue's eyes widened and then she let out a bitter smile. "...I know, Husband. I know that all too well. But my heart..." She sighed. "I will try."
"That's all I ask. And now..." He shifted his gaze to Omega.
She looked back, clearly expecting what John had to say to her. Her cute lips were pursed in a frown and she had her arms crossed, already rejecting John's words. No, as if ready to retort whatever he said.
But John couldn't let that stop him.
"Ex Nihilo Omega. My youngest daughter."
Omega stilled, waiting on John's words.
"I did you wrong. More than anyone else."
Omega blinked, clearly not expecting those words.
John sighed and said, "You were born with the best of your mother's talents as well as my own. And not only that, you managed to turn the opposing paradigms into your own supreme path that had no weaknesses, only strengths. A heaven-sent prodigy beyond either of us... and also one whom I treated far too callously."
Omega was quiet, simply watching her father. But as she did, she loosened her arms a bit, listening.
"I should have realized it. You were different. While you weren't a child of our flesh and blood, you were still a child of the union of our paths. A 'child'. One who should have been enjoying a comfortable life with her parents and growing up as a child should. But instead, I saw nothing but your skills, your intelligence, and your talent. I didn't even stop to think of what you might have wanted."
"T-That's..." Omega shook her head. "W-Who cares?! I'm not a child-"
"But you are. My youngest and sweetest child who I made grow up far too fast." John looked in the mirror at Omega- No, at Meggie.
She stared back, her golden eyes confused.
"I saw your eagerness to train and taught you all I knew, thinking you wanted to become strong. What I should have realized was that you just wanted to spend time with me."
Omega shook her head. "T-That's not..."
"I saw your eagerness to come with me to diplomacy meetings with other sects and the Eternal Emperors as you wanting to take the reins. So I let you. I should have realized that it was just you being excited about seeing what your father did for work."
"But most of all..." John sighed. "...I should have realized that the fact that you could stand alone by the time I left didn't mean you were ready for me to step away from your life, even if just for a moment. That my youngest daughter Meggie still needed me around. That she wanted her father, and not the Timeless Savant who trained her to handle his affairs in his stead."
Omega's eyes widened and then they started to water. Not long after that, she started to sniff. And then...
"S-S-Stupid D-Daddy! Y-Y-You should have... should have said that a long time ago...!"
After getting out those words, Omega broke down into loud sobs, covering her face.
"W-Wait a minute." John's eyes widened. "M-Meggie!"
Omega shook her head and kept crying.
John scanned the surroundings, wondering if he should park the car. As he did, he said, "Alphy, could you-"
John's eyes widened and he glanced back to see Alpha's eyes start watering as well.
"H-Hold on! Alphy-"
She pulled Omega into a hug and said, "I'm sorry Meggie! Big sister should have realized you were lonely!"
"B-Big sister Alphy...!"
John shook his head and turned to Beta. "Betty-"
Yet another sniff.
Beta wiped her eyes and then hugged her sisters as well. "I'm sorry too. I should have realized how you two were feeling... I should have noticed. If I had, then all of us...!"
Muffled sobs and apologies.
John groaned and looked at Yue. "At least you-"
Yue sniffed as well, covering her face. "H-Husband is such a good father... And yet a w-woman such as I...!"