156 – A Whole New World
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Qing glanced at his phone. Seeing that there weren't any new messages, he let out a sigh of relief.

John really didn't think things through... It was good that he decided to take Miss Yue out on a proper honeymoon after all that had occurred, but to do it at a moment's notice without proper preparations was a bit... Well, to be honest quite like him.

But it seemed like things worked out. The stream finished without any more problems... other than the fact that UTube seemed to have broken due to the stream and would likely be contacting them soon to resolve and troubleshoot the problem with the chat being messed up.

That was a Bai problem though, not him.

And speaking of Bai...

Qing slipped his phone back in his pocket and looked across the table to the two guests sitting there.

A small cafe in the middle of Tokyo's commercial district. After Qing finished his interview with Miss Yozora... who he needed to remember to call back to meet with John at a later point, as well as clarify whether or not he made a mistake that day in giving her a tip.

Anyway, after interviewing her, Qing decided to check up on his fellow co-worker to ensure that he wasn't causing any more problems.

After all, with everything going on, and John's last minute arrangements to attend the winter electronics expo, auditioning the new potential idols, Asako's emergency call and impromptu introduction...

Qing wasn't going to allow any more problems. The former Azure Dragon had only been returned to a young body for less than a week, but he was already starting to feel like his former aged appearance...

Maybe he should pick up smoking? Tobacco would cause issues in a mortal body, but the toxins should be just relaxing to someone like him... No, that was no good. Vices started small but would quickly compound on each other. So then-

"Bro... You okay? You've been staring off into space holding that cup of coffee for a while now."

Qing blinked and saw a familiar young man with white hair staring at him. Bai.

And next to that guy was a beautiful woman with slightly curled black hair and a white coat.

Qing blinked again and then remembered what he was doing.

Bai and that Miss Iyasu.

He had arranged to meet with the two over lunch to interview the supposed new doctor that Bai found the other night. That was what he was doing.

Qing shook his head and sipped on his coffee before setting the cup aside. "My apologies. There has been a lot on my mind recently."

Bai frowned and leaned back in his chair. "Seems like it. What, is that bastard working you down to the bone?"

Qing paused to think about that.

...John never did say that Qing *had* to do all that he was doing at the moment. But on the other hand, Qing had a feeling that if he didn't work on those problems, the somewhat calm and peaceful life that they were living in this mortal world would be shattered in an instant.

And John might decide to toss away that last bit of reservation he had at playing as a mortal.

...Which meant that Qing would never get the chance to leisurely relax and indulge in a slow life perusing all the knowledge that this world had to offer.

Qing sighed and said, "It is my own decision, so do not worry about it too much. Although..." He gave Bai a pointed look and said, "I would appreciate it if you helped more with the company instead of fooling around."

Bai held up his hands. "Hey, I've been working. Who do you think managed to get us the proper booths, advertisements, and merchandise for the expo?"

"...That was only after I called you."

"But I *did* get it done."

Eri glanced between Bai and Qing. After biting her lip for a moment, she said, "Um... Should I be here?"

"Ah, don't worry about it Eri." Bai slung his arm around her shoulder and grinned. "You're going to be part of Myth Inc. soon anyway, so it's fine for you to hear this stuff."

Qing nodded. "Yes." He shifted his gaze to Eri and let out a soft smile. "And I am in charge of human resources, so please tell me if you find Bai's behavior inappropriate in any way. I will make sure to punish him accordingly."

Bai scoffed. "Pft. You? HR?"

"Considering that John hasn't hired anyone else, yes. And considering that I'm the one in charge of salaries, I suggest you think wisely before I give your precious income a hefty slash."

"...Yes, COO."

Qing sighed and then pulled out a ballpoint pen from his pocket. After that, he grabbed his notebook from the side and placed it on the table. Opening to a new page, he looked to Eri and said, "Now, Miss Iyasu, was it?"

"H-Hai!" Eri nodded and said, "Iyasu Eri- Ah, Iyasu is my family name and Eri is my given name! P-Pleased to meet you!" She quickly bowed her head.

"Mmhm." Qing wrote down some notes. "Understood. Now from what I understand, my colleague Bai found you the other day? And you happened to be a certified medical practitioner?"

Bai's eyes lit up and he laughed. "Yeah, Bro. You'll never believe how it happened. So there I was, walking around downtown-"

"I did not ask you, Bai. And also stop spending so much time on social media. You are starting to talk like an outcast from society."

Bai cleared his throat. "...My bad."

"In any case..." Qing looked back to Eri and said, "Miss Iyasu?"

She blushed and looked away. "U-Um... It's a bit embarrassing..." She glanced at Qing and then looked at Bai before lowering her head. "...Do I have to?"

Qing blinked, looking between her and Bai and then groaned. "Bai. *Please* do not tell me that you had a rendezvous with this woman while she was vulnerable and then confidently said you would take responsibility. And please do not tell me that you only found out that she was a licensed practitioner after the fact."

Bai nodded. "Alright. I won't."

Eri covered her face and turned an even deeper shade of red.

Seeing that, Qing set down his pen and pinched the bridge of his nose. "Bai."

"Yeah?"

"We have known each other for many years now, right? Enough to where I could consider you a brother?"

The White Tiger nodded. "Yeah. An annoying one, but I'd say you're my bro."

Qing resisted the urge to slam his head on the table. That wouldn't be a good look. While there weren't many patrons in the cafe at the current time since it was in the middle of the day, and while they were in a private table in the back of the room, it would still draw attention.

...And they were already drawing attention because of their looks and Eri's beauty.

So instead, Qing let out a deep sigh and said, "Then, my dear brother. Please explain to me why you think it is a good idea for us to hire a woman that you have been intimate with into a company that the entire world is watching for a single reason to try and rip apart?"

Bai smirked. "Easy! Eri is a kind, beautiful, and smart woman who would work great with the girls that John is hiring. Not only that, but she even has a similar background to the girls that guy wanted to pick up."

Qing looked back at Eri and said, "Similar background, you say?"

Eri met Qing's eyes and didn't look away this time. "Y-Yes. Um... Well, Bai didn't give me many details about the girls, but he said that Myth Incorporated focused on giving people at a dead end a new future. After the director told me to resign and blacklisted me from working as a doctor anywhere, I didn't know what to do with myself. And then when I went to drink my troubles away at a bar just to forget everything..."

Bai smacked his chest and said, "I swooped in like a hero and beat up the bad guys trying to take advantage of her!"

Eri smiled, her cheeks red. "...That's right. Bai saved me from those men and then listened to my story the whole night. And then when I was crying and sad, he said that he had a friend who could help me keep working as a doctor. Um... Can you?" She looked at Qing, her eyes bright with hope and expectation.

...Dammit. These damned bastards...

Was Bai jealous of John for being so lovey-dovey with Yue? Was that why he decided to try and play the hero too?

No, forget that. How did it work!? Bai was such an arrogant show off that he managed to remain single his entire life!

Were the women here that easy? No, Eri seemed too smart and kind for that. Did Bai just take advantage of her then?

...No, that guy seemed surprisingly sincere about a woman for once.

"U-Um... Mister Qing?" Eri looked up at Qing and frowned. "Am I... no good?"

Qing flung up his hands and said, "Forget it!" He looked at Bai and said, "You do the paperwork for your woman and sort out the affairs. Get the medical supplies, make a medical wing in the building, the licenses..." He grabbed his notebook and scribbled down a list before ripping the paper out and tossing it to Bai.

"W-Wait, Bro?" Bai snatched the paper out of the air and blinked.

Eri blinked. "B-Bai's woman? U-Um... I-I'm not...! I-I mean, I wouldn't be opposed to it, but-"

Qing snapped his notebook shut and stood up. After grabbing his bag, he turned on his heel and walked out.

"Wait! Qing-!"

Qing held up his hand and waved. "I am taking the rest of the day off. If any problems come up, you handle them. And make sure that you do." He paused and turned back to glare with bloodshot eyes. "...Or else I will ensure that you regret it."

Seeing Bai flinch, Qing nodded and then stalked off.

...Damned bastards, fooling around with women while he has to do all of the hard work...

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

Bai watched Qing leave and then rubbed the back of his neck, letting out an awkward smile. "...Maybe I should have taken him out to have some fun too."

Eri stared at Qing and then looked back at Bai. "Um... Did I do something wrong?"

Bai shook his head. "Don't worry about it, Eri. Bro's just under a lot of stress. He should be fine after he lets off some steam."

"Ah." Eri nodded. "I understand how that is."

"Right? Anyway..." Bai cracked his neck and said, "Looks like I'll be busy for a bit. Do you mind, Eri?"

"Not at all!" Eri shook her head and then blushed. "Taking some of your precious time away for someone like me is already-"

"Oi. Stop that." Bai frowned and said, "It's not your fault that idiots run the hospital... And it's their loss for letting a fantastic woman like you go."

Eri blushed and looked away, twirling her hair.

Bai didn't notice, too busy staring at the note Qing left him. "Hm. I suppose it's about time we did some expanding... Might not be a bad idea to start our own medical facilities to give a cover for that guy to save more people."

"Eh?"

Bai smiled. "Nothing, Eri. Now... since we're alone, how about we enjoy ourselves a bit? You aren't busy today, are you?"

"N-No?"

"Great! Then after this, let's go to the arcade."

Eri frowned. "Don't you have to work?"

"...That can wait until tomorrow."

Eri's frown deepened. "Bai. That's no good."

"...Hah. Fine. I'll go work after we get our food... But only if you stay with me, alright? It'll be boring otherwise."

Eri blushed. "W-Well... O-Only if you actually work! I don't want Mister Qing to get more stressed."

Bai patted his chest and said, "Alright! Now, no going back on your word."

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

Just around the corner from the cafe and waiting for the traffic light to turn green, Qing froze and muttered, "...Why do I have the sudden urge to skin a cat?"

Before he could dwell too much on it, a soft *beep* echoed and the light changed.

Qing shook his head and crossed the road, mulling over what to do.

Since he said he was going to take the day off, he was definitely going to do it. The problem was what he was going to spend that time on now.

Those troublesome women from the Three Realms were John's problem now, so he didn't have to worry about them. The girls managed to resolve the stream situation, and Bai was going to handle any other problems, so that was fine.

Tomorrow had more interviews with other potential candidates, but that was a tomorrow issue.

All the other business affairs were settled... and it was only around 4 PM.

Qing sighed. "...Maybe I should have thought this through some more?"

It was one thing to schedule a break, but to take a sudden one... just how did those guys do it?

"Oi! You!"

Qing frowned and placed his hand on his chin to think.

Should he survey the local cuisine? Go window shopping?

No, he did enough of that in the past... Not to mention that it would be impossible to do as he was without drawing attention to himself. And while he was still unknown now, it wouldn't be good to have bad publicity before he made his proper appearance as the COO.

"Hey! You bastard... Oi! I'm talking to you!"

Drink? That *did* sound appealing, but mortal spirits weren't enough to affect him and he doubted it would be as good as anything he had in his spatial rings.

"Dammit! Are you gay? How can you ignore a woman like me calling out for your attention?"

Qing blinked and then looked up.

There was a beautiful young woman standing in front of him. That much wasn't too surprising. After all, considering his current appearance, he had been stopped more than a few times before while out and about.

But what *was* surprising was the woman's attire.

A completely exposed and voluptuous body, with only a thin piece of black leather to cover the important bits. Thigh-high black boots with gold trimmings, paired with long black leather gloves.

Her skin was tanned, as if used to the sun, and a few crimson tattoos were etched on her shoulders and the sides of her thighs, like runic markings.

The woman huffed, tossing aside her silver hair and then crossed her arms. "About time! Now, since you are obviously the most powerful mortal around..." She grinned and then stepped forward, placing her arms around Qing's neck. "Demon Lord Sitri commands you... *Be mine.*"

A low and sultry voice. One that would no doubt enchant any man who heard it. But...

Qing pushed the woman away and walked past her. "I am *not* dealing with this."

"W-What?" The woman- No, the self-proclaimed Demon Lord Sitri started to panick. "I-Impossible! No human should be able to- Daddy said- W-Wait. My powers...?!"

Qing ignored the strange woman as well as the people staring at him and kept walking. As he did, his phone vibrated.

Qing frowned and pulled it out to check on the notification.

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

[From: Asako Seiryuu]

Just wanted to let you know that some weird ass women showed up and said they would be staying over at the HQ with Alpha and Meggie and that they wouldn't be coming back to your place.

Not sure what's really going on anymore... but that's that.

Anyway, thanks again for helping out earlier. I'll treat you to a drink or something sometime.

Take care.

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

Qing blinked, rereading the message again just to make sure. And then he slowly put his phone away and muttered, "Not my problem. Not my problem."

He'd have to remind Miss Asako later to be a bit more formal in communications as well, but that was definitely-

"W-Wait! You!"

...Definitely not his problem.

And speaking of problems, that young woman definitely seemed to be a landmine, so it'd be best to leave as soon as possible.

...Was this how John felt whenever he got involved with women? It was probably how he felt whenever he got involved with women.

Qing ducked into an alleyway and prepared to spatial leap back to his apartment.

And then he heard a sniffing from nearby. Shortly after, that weird young woman's voice called out. "Waaait! Mister! I'm sorry! I didn't mean to try and enslave you! Please don't leave me behind! You're the only one who could see and interact with me all day! I don't wanna be a ghost anymore!"

Qing froze and then pinched the bridge of his nose. "...Somehow, someway. I just *know* this is John's fault."

The Azure Dragon sighed and then walked back out from the alleyway.

When he did, he saw the young woman crouched down on the ground, shivering from the cold and looking dejected. Rubbing her eyes, the young woman sniffed and said, "I-I knew it. I should have stayed home. I'm not cut out for conquering worlds and dimensions... Stupid Daddy. Stupid Mom. Stupid family, kicking me out from my room..."

Qing let out another deep sigh.

The young woman flinched and then looked up. "M-Mister?"

Before she had seemed sultry and confident... but now Qing could see that it was all just an act. The seductive young woman from before was nowhere to be seen, only a vulnerable and lost girl in her place.

Qing took off his coat and handed it to her.

She blinked, looking at the coat and then at Qing. "You... aren't mad?" She slowly stood up and said, "B-But... I tried to enslave you."

"I have had worse things attempted on me in the past. And that guy would be angry if he found out I ignored someone like you."

The beautiful silver-haired woman looked confused, but she took the coat and nodded. Staring at Qing's face for a bit, she blushed and looked away, muttering, "T-Thank you."

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

Up in northern Japan, Hokkaido. A reserved open-air onsen.

Faint bubbling from a natural volcanic hot spring. The heat contrasted by a slight winter breeze and faint snow. An antique building nearby for resting, fully furnished with tatami mats and what you would expect from a place like that.

"Mm~" A content female voice echoed, along with the faint splashing of water. "There... Mm! H-Husband... Y-Your hands...Oh! Nn~"

John gave Yue a blank look and said, "Could you not make those noises when I'm just giving you a backrub? I get that we're alone, but..."

"Ahn~!" Yue shivered as she laid on a warm towel near the edge of the hot spring. "I can't help it. Nn! My body's gotten so used to your touch that- Ah!" Yue blushed and then turned around to glare at him. "...It's your fault for giving me this habit."

John coughed and looked away. As he did, he suddenly felt something off. "Hm?"

Yue sat up, holding the towel up to her chest. "Is something wrong, Husband?"

"No. Just..." John tilted his head. "Weird. It feels like I'm forgetting something..."

"Ah." Yue lowered her head. "...I'm sorry. Taking you away for myself like this-"

John reached over and pulled Yue in for a hug before she could finish. "Silly. I want to spend time with you. Now... how about we slip in the hotsprings now? Since you're being so noisy... Well, I should at least give you a reason to be, right?"

"P-Pervert." Yue blushed.

"...So is that a-"

"I never said I didn't want to! Just... give me some time to-"

"Too late."

"H-Husba- Nn~!"

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

Titor stared at the computer monitors in front of him. For good measure, he had even turned on all of the lights in his usual dim office in Akihabara to make sure he was reading things right.

But it didn't change what he was seeing.

"Oh. That's not good." He muttered and quickly typed on his keyboard, bringing up some more screens. After reading the messages that popped up, Titor let out a nervous laugh and said, "...Maybe I should have checked to make sure there wasn't already a gap in space before integrating a dimensional gate transfer protocol on top of it..."

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