Yue adjusted her dress against the plush chair her dear husband had conjured for her in the streaming studio and watched Alpha.
The black-haired beauty let out a soft smile, her crimson eyes half-lidded as she sang a song pleading for 'someone' to stay alive while she wandered around, lost.
Her voice wasn't the greatest, and her technique left a lot to be desired.
Yue was certain that she could probably sing the song better.
Even so, she was surprised.
Magnum Opus Alpha. John's first daughter who carried a reputation just as infamous as his own. A beautiful and cold young woman whose only purpose in life had been to destroy her father's enemies.
And here she was, staring out into a reflected world while singing her heart out with such a tender expression.
Completely different. The emotionless and cold beauty that Yue remembered was nowhere to be seen.
And Alpha wasn't the only person who was different.
John sat at the desk with the main streaming computer, monitoring everything to ensure nothing went wrong. At least, that was what he should have been doing. But at the moment, his jade green eyes were blurred with tears, a few streaks already running down his cheeks, while a proud smile sat on his face.
Yue's fearless and confident husband, completely vulnerable and exposed.
And then there was Meggie, seated off to the side on a black beanbag. Watching her oldest sister sing, Meggie was starting to tear up as well, mixed emotions crossing her face. Realization, regret, and then happiness.
Yue could understand why. Seeing such a soft and tender side to Alpha... She was different. Different from the cold and prim young woman who listened to her requests and words without hesitation. Different from the young beauty who mercilessly slaughtered enemies in the past. Different from the one whose name was known just as wide as John's for being the Maiden of Destruction.
An unfeeling, ruthless, and cold beauty. That was the reputation Alpha held.
The young woman... no, the girl standing there was just that. A maiden with a pure heart, singing out her emotions without a care about how the world might view her. Singing as if to touch at least just one person, to change the life of a single soul.
A soft and warm smile, one all too similar to her father's. Kind and happy eyes, staring tenderly at a simulacrum of the ones behind the screen.
Seeing that, Yue realized what her husband was trying to do.
The sun had already fallen, replaced by the starry sky and the pale moon. And paired with the few snowflakes visible through the windows behind the curtains, it should have been a cold atmosphere.
But it wasn't. Instead, there was a warm and happy atmosphere. Like a tender flame, soft enough to vanish in an instant, but bright enough to provide gentle comfort.
Nothing tangible, of course. Yue was attuned enough to the surroundings to know that the area wasn't physically warmer than anywhere else.
But it 'felt' warm. And the reason for that...
"So this is the warmth of 'family'..." Yue let out those soft words and then gently placed her right hand on her stomach.
Her husband, her daughter- No, her daughters. And then herself.
Watching her eldest daughter do her best, seeing her husband with that proud and tearful expression, seeing her youngest daughter moved by her oldest sister's song...
That thought crossed Yue's mind. She rubbed her stomach, thinking of the newest addition to their family.
A peaceful world. One where there was no need to fight or fear for their lives. One where they could spend the days in leisure.
It was... In truth, it was everything that Yue could have ever wished for.
But at the same time...
She couldn't help but feel guilty.
Yue shifted her gaze away from Alpha and then down towards her stomach. To her child.
...John had chosen her. And she had been welcomed into his family.
But she hadn't been the only one close to him. And as Yue felt the warm atmosphere of her family, she couldn't help but think.
If it had been one of the others instead... Wouldn't they be happier still? Her dear husband and her daughters... The family she had right now...
It was hers. And she loved them dearly.
Someone as selfish as her, who was willing to lose herself in that hazy dream and cause so much trouble for John. Who sent Alpha and Beta out without considering how long they might spend in that timeless void while John traveled through the stars. Who didn't even consider the feelings of her daughters and thought only of her husband the entire time...
"Wifey?" John looked over, frowning. "Is something wrong?"
Yue suppressed the urge to flinch and then shook her head. "No, Husband. Nothing is wrong. I'm just... happy." She smiled.
Yes. She was happy.
And that was the dilemma.
Happy... she had always wished to be happy. And John had come to fulfill her wish. Her cold world had been warmed by his presence and acceptance into his family along with his two daughters.
But... He said he was happy with her, that he loved her, but wouldn't he be even happier with someone better than her? Someone who would have believed in him the entire time and supported his decision like Wang Zhaojun. Someone who would have waited for an eternity like Su Daji. Or someone who would have walked right alongside him as he left, like Jiutian Xuannu.
Yue felt the baby shift beneath her touch, as if trying to reassure her. Her eyes teared up and she smiled, gently patting her stomach. "I'm sorry."
She was being selfish again. To think that she forgot to consider even the child she carried in her thoughts... To think that John would be happier with another woman would be denying the life that Yue carried with her at that very moment.
Yue shook her head, causing tears to run down her cheeks. But she pursed her lips shut.
She wanted to apologize again. To say that she was a terrible mother. That she was sorry the child was born from her selfishness instead of proper love... That she was sorry she didn't know really what 'love' meant.
But she couldn't say that. At least, she knew she couldn't say that here.
Because this was Alpha's time. For her to selfishly take away from that by breaking down into tears and mumbling endless apologies-
A firm arm pulled Yue close.
She flinched and looked up to see John staring at her, a faint smile on his face. "It's fine to be a bit emotional, you know? No one here will judge you for being 'weak'."
Yue was quiet for a few moments. But then she sighed and leaned into him, quietly saying, "I know, Husband. I know."
John gave her a firm squeeze and said, "As long as you do."
And she did.
It was fine that she was this weak. It was fine that she was a vile woman who snatched John for herself when he would have been happier with others.
So... Then it was fine, right? This happiness, this warmth...
Alpha finished her song and smiled, happily chatting in response to the messages sent to her by her supporters.
Watching that, Yue let out a content sigh and leaned into John, enjoying the happy atmosphere and ignoring the slight guilt in her heart.
Qing's apartment, a few miles away from Myth Inc. HQ. A full suite with an office, three bedrooms with attached bathrooms, and a living room.
Considering that only one person was renting the place, it was a bit excessive. Unlike Bai, who was more frugal in his choice of living spaces, Qing had chosen a more luxurious place.
But it paid off, considering that he was free to do his work in quiet while hosting the three venerable guests and beauties that Master John nonchalantly passed off to him.
Qing sighed and set down the pen he was using before rubbing the bridge of his nose. "Master John truly does not know the definition of 'restraint' does he?"
He shifted his gaze over to the stack of applications on his desk and then sighed again.
Over a hundred formal applications, sent in by management agencies for former, current, and potential idols. Thousands more applying through email, attaching video samples. And then there was the voicemail that Qing still had to go through... Though that was considerably less.
That was how many Qing had at the current moment. However, after Master John's recent stream, and now his infamy online due to his virtuoso piano playing skills and the deluge of memes that emerged because of that piano stream...
"Just when will that Mister Kimura be finished settling his affairs?"
Qing really needed someone reliable to help expand the company and find more employees. The middle and lower rungs of the ladder were just as important as the top... something that John had neglected due to his ability to run everything by himself.
Were this the Three Realms, that would be fine. But in this mortal world, as long as wished to enjoy a peaceful life with his family, John would need to abide by the world's common sense.
Something that he was infamous for lacking.
Qing sighed. "...Well, I suppose it is an honor to be relied on in this way."
And it wasn't much different than what he did before. Blend in among the mortals, run everything from behind the shadows, ensure that any oddities were accounted for... and create a proper chain of command and inheritance so that it wouldn't collapse like a pile of cards.
Fortunately, the mortals in John's home world were extremely studious and created an entire path devoted to business management that Qing could reference.
The Azure Dragon shook his head and then leaned back in his chair, taking a look around his office.
It was spartan, decorations kept at a bare necessity. A small house plant in the corner of the office and a blue dragon banner with the emblem of his defunct sect mounted on the wall were the only personal touches the place had.
In terms of furnishings, there was a bit more. File cabinets were pushed against the wall, meticulously sorted with all the essential documents like the articles of incorporation and copies of each employee's contract.
At the moment, Qing was seated at a polished oak desk in the back of the room. Sitting on an authentic Italian leather chair that could adjust its height and back rest angle, his face was illuminated by a pair of lamps off to his left and right, letting off simulated natural light.
Opposite the desk, right next to the door leading out of the office and into the rest of the apartment, there was a monitor hanging on the wall, showing livestreams of local news.
There was a brief segment about the infamous yakuza leader Shin Seiryuu being executed. But not long after, a feature piece played about a certain up-and-coming company owner who put on such a long musical stream with such a wide reach.
Qing sighed and then picked his pen up again before grabbing the next resume off his pile.
At the same time, he wrote a quick note to himself to head off interviews and the questions about John's family by making a personal press statement about the state of affairs of Myth Inc.
After all, it wasn't like John would do that any time soon considering that he'd be too busy enjoying time with his beloved wife and children.
...Something that Qing sorely lacked.
He sighed again and then went back to his work-
A high-pitched squeal, followed by a female voice. Daji's. "I can't believe how cute Alphy is!"
"Hmph." Another female voice. Zhaojun's. "I have always said that my niece is adorable. It is about time that she accepted that fact and showed it off."
A cold snort, followed by yet another female voice. Xuannu's. "Please. Just you wait until little Meggie grows into her own and matures a bit. Then we can talk about who is the most adorable."
Qing paused and then threw up some privacy formations before turning his attention back to his work.
Or he tried to.
But when he started to look at the next applicant's resume, he got a notification on his phone.
Frowning, Qing pulled it out to take a look.
It was from Bai.
"Odd..." Qing muttered and unlocked his phone to read the message. "Did that cat need something?"
[Hey. Remember how you said we should get a doctor to do physicals for the future idols?]
Qing hummed and then responded. [I do indeed. I presume you met with good fortune?]
[More than that! Not only did I find a doctor for us...]
Qing waited. And waited. And just when he was wondering if something had happened to Bai, an image popped up on his phone.
Bai's face popped out as always, center stage in the picture. And like usual, he was wearing flashy clothing, a white tuxedo with silver cuff-links, and a tiger earring on his left ear. But he also wasn't alone.
Standing next to him, pulled up to his side was a beautiful woman. A mature beauty with long black hair and a slight blush on her face as she held up an id... a doctor's id. [Eri Iyasu, M.D.]
It was clear that Bai put her up to it... but from the way she slightly leaned into the White Tiger and how her eyes were looking towards him even during the picture, it also seemed like she enjoyed it.
And as if to confirm that- No, no doubt to rub it in, a text message soon followed.
[I got a girl!]
Sparks flew and chemicals dripped onto the floor.
Qing blinked and realized that he had crushed his phone.
"...The heavens must truly be blind."
Qing let out a long frustrated sigh before waving his hands and cleaning up the mess.
It would be a hassle replacing his phone... but he could write that off as a business expense. And then use the funds to go take a quiet trip for himself.
Yes. A bit of personal time sounded nice...
After all, it seemed like the heavens were cursing him to be a bachelor for life, so he might as well act the part for once...