158 – Gate of Steiner
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Titor glanced at a tablet and scanned the surroundings. "This... really isn't good."

It was evening. The sun was setting and the sky was turning dark.

After picking up that anomalous reading a few hours ago, Titor had booked it out of Akihabara and chased down the source. Except, when he reached downtown Tokyo, the source had vanished.

He leaned against the side of a building and groaned. Lowering the tablet, he ran his left hand through his hair and said, "John's going to be pissed when he finds out..."

Even if that guy was having lovey-dovey times with Yue, Titor was sure that wouldn't stop him from flipping his lid if he found out that Titor had accidentally opened the gate for random people from different timelines, dimensions, and worlds to get reverse isekai'd.

Not to mention that random NPCs from Operation MirAI could pop up too...

Or worse, the idols themselves.

Titor shook his head. "No. That won't happen."

He held up his tablet again and doublechecked his system.

So far, he managed to hotfix everything by completely stopping the virtual reality and creating an eternity code to lock the transfer protocols.

Barring John breaking it himself, there shouldn't be any other surprises popping up on Earth for a while. Not until the new year at least... but that should be plenty of time for Titor to revise the system as well as for enough faith to have accumulated in Project MirAIs to turn the virtual reality into a 'Realized Fiction' through the Incarnation process.

Of course, it didn't change the fact that there were already more than a few anomalies on Earth... and that this Earth was already anomalous from the get go.

Titor tapped his tablet and scanned the scant bits of data he managed to grab before the anomalies went dark as Earth's absolute rule eliminating foreign powers went into effect, forcibly turning the uninvited guests into ordinary humans.

"A female Demon Lord from a world running on [Status], an ordinary young woman from an Earth that's on a higher plane of existence, a mortal woman from the Three Realms, a pair of divine signatures also from the Three Realms..." Titor let out a sigh. "Nothing too crazy."

It would have been a problem if there were mythical existences like a phoenix, an eldritch priestess, the grim reaper, a time traveler, or an Atlantean, but it seemed like the ones who managed to get in were relatively normal.

Well, except for that Demon Lord... who could be a problem.

Titor scratched his head and then looked around the surroundings. "I don't get it... I could have sworn that it was right here."

Currently, Titor was in a residential area with a bunch of apartment complexes. Not quite the bourgeois apartments in Roppongi like the one that John completely forgot to use, but still relatively expensive. And from what he could pick up from both his readings and the nearby camera feeds, that Demon Lord should have been around... but he couldn't catch any sign of her now.

In fact, it was like some sort of power was obscuring his readings and distorting the electromagnetic waves in the area...

Titor sighed. "Dammit. I knew I should have convinced John to give me proper spiritual sense instead of this digital presence..."

Considering that Earth was teaming with electromagnetic signals and that the internet existed in a constant radiation due to wifi signals and radio waves, the fact that Titor was essentially a sentient blob of energy in the form of an AI made him practically omniscient.

...Except when it came to things that went beyond the normal common sense like literally everything that happened when it involved John or anyone else.

Titor stared at his tablet a while longer, hoping that it would magically pick up the readings again... but it didn't. Instead, a notification popped up.

[Reminder: Alfi Titor Ch. will be live at 9 PM]

"Looks like Alphy figured out what she wants to do tonight..." Titor dismissed the notification and sighed. "And I've been out too long now."

He lowered the tablet and took one final look around the surroundings.

Snow, random people passing by, the occasional car passing by in the road...

Titor shook his head and started walking back to Akihabara. "Might as well do something productive and get ready to moderate Alphy's chat. Don't want people to think that they can go crazy like they did earlier in the collab stream..."

He tucked his tablet in his lab coat and then stuck his hands in his pocket, strolling back to his lab.

Things should be fine, right? Right. It wasn't like anything crazy could happen. They were just a few powerless humans now. Might be a bit troublesome if they did some weird things to stand out or if John caught wind of things, but even then they wouldn't be able to cause any harm.

Besides, it wasn't like all of those anomalies could wind up in Japan of all places, right?

Titor froze and then let out a deep sigh. "Dammit, I just had to go and tempt fate."

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

A small office in Akihabara, nondescript and away from the main attractions. With only one level, it was more of a house than an actual office. The only indication that it was for business use was the tiny plaque on the door with Ars Nova Productions written on it.

Inside of that office, Beta sat at a desk and combed through a script on her laptop, scrolling through hundreds of lines at once with an open notepad next to her.

Unlike her usual fashionable attire, or her casual Nikeys, the crimson haired beauty was currently wearing a sharp black business suit and pants. Paired with the black rimmed smart glasses on her face, she looked every bit the part of a no-nonsense and enterprising career woman.

After pausing on a section of the script marked 'Autumn Fox', Beta frowned and scribbled down some notes while muttering to herself. "Mutual exclusion from the main route will be difficult since the affection events overlap." She hummed and tapped on the notepad. "We will need to have the system account for this in some way... but creating new events from scratch will be too excessive. But eliminating the alternative paths completely is a bit extreme too..."

A door opened nearby and a bright and cheery female voice called out. "Here you go, Mistress! I got you some more coffee and sweets!"

Beta paused and then looked up at the person that walked in.

A shy-looking young woman with copper-brown hair and red-rimmed glasses. Like Beta, the young woman was also wearing a suit. But unlike Beta's composed appearance, the young woman was a bit disheveled. Her hair was kept in a tidy ponytail with a scrunchie, but her bangs were all over the place. Not only that, but a bit of her shirt stuck out from her suit in the front, not properly tucked away.

She walked over to Beta's desk while carrying a drink tray with four cups of coffee and a brown bag, both from Starbux.

Beta sighed and said, "Are you certain that you have been sleeping well, Emily?"

'Emily' let out a bright smile and placed the coffee and bag on the desk. "Never better! Anything's fine as long as it makes Mistress happy! B-Besides, being able to help Mistress with her research..." The young woman blushed and then looked away.

Beta took one of the cups from the drink tray and then started rummaging through the bag. "And I appreciate your help. Though... you could relax a bit with the formalities."

Emily gasped and shook her head. "Impossible! Mistress is Mistress!"

Beta took a sip from her coffee and frowned. "And I have said it already that you do not have to call me that. Despite the rather... abrupt and rude intrusion, since then you have done quite a lot for me. At the least, I would like to consider you more than just a casual acquaintance or 'servant.'"

Emily's blue eyes glimmered with tears and she let out a watery smile. "Mistress...!" She shook her head and then clasped her hands to her chest. "I'll remember your kindness forever and ever!"

"...And you are being overdramatic as usual. But I suppose that is your charm..." Beta smiled and glanced back at her laptop. As she did, she looked at the time and frowned. "...Are the others still not here yet?"

Emily took a cup of coffee as well and then shook her head. "Miss Sakura said that she might be a bit late. Um..." She tilted her head and said, "I think it was something about taking care of her kid?"

Beta furrowed her brow and said, "Rin? But she should be fine with Asako and Eldest Sister..."

"Oh!" Emily shook her head and said, "Not Miss Rin. She said it was... Ah. Actually, I think she said she had to take care of a 'brat.'" Emily frowned and looked to Beta. "Do you know what she might be talking about, Mistress?"

"A brat?" Beta frowned. "Sakura might have a sharp tongue and cutting wit, but I can hardly think of a person who would earn her ire enough to be called a-" She paused and then shook her head. "On second thought, I believe I know who she is referring to."

In recent team meetings, Sakura *had* been complaining about a certain single father who seemed to lack even more common sense than Beta's father... And it seemed like that person had caused another problem for Sakura.

Beta took a sip from her coffee and muttered, "Father really needs to sit down and have a proper conversation with Kai at some point."

It seemed like some repressed mental trauma had emerged since the incident with Yue and the man was barely getting by. He also seemed to be in a rush for some reason... But that was a problem for later.

Beta shook her head and then looked at Emily. "And Ichiro?"

Emily wrinkled her nose. "Our resident animator and graphics designer said he'd be late too. *Apparently*, he made a promise to grade his students' tests and didn't manage to get everything done on time." She huffed and said, "Honestly, Mistress. Why did you pick an unreliable guy like that in the first place to join the project?"

"Because out of everyone I interviewed, he was the only one who did not blatantly try to flirt with me or try to undress me with his eyes like I was a piece of meat?"

Emily clicked her tongue. "Men... I get that Mistress is beautiful, but-"

"I did not just interview men."

"...Oh." Emily nodded. "Well... Mistress *is* incredible. It only makes sense that both men and women would find you attractive. Though..." She narrowed her eyes. "Daring to treat Mistress so disrespectfully...!"

Beta rolled her eyes. "Calm down, Emily."

"Sorry, Mistress."

"...Are you sure that your mind was not damaged on your arrival?"

Emily giggled and said, "Thanks for worrying about me, Mistress! But I'm in tip top shape! Better than ever, even! Especially after..." She blushed and looked away.

Beta frowned. "...Well, let me know if your body is fine. I will not have you collapsing on me again like before. Am I clear?"

"Absolutely crystal!"

Beta dug around in the Starbux bag and pulled out a glazed donut. After taking a bite, she said, "Well, since it is just us again, shall we go over your part in the presentation?"

"Ah!" Emily quickly put her cup of coffee back on the desk and nodded. "Anytime, Mistress! Um, let me think... Right!" She straightened her body and said, "Hello everyone! My name is Emily Nova and-"

Before she could finish talking, a door opened in the distance.

Shortly after, a frantic male voice called out. "I'm here, Boss! Please don't fire me! I've got everything done!"

A female laugh echoed, and then a familiar female voice called out. "You worry too much, Ichiro-kun. Our 'Boss' isn't the sort of person to fire you over being just a little late."

A young man with tousled brown hair and soft curled bangs walked into Beta's office, wearing a tan suit fluffy white scarf. Ichiro Torabu, apparently just off from his day job as a teacher.

Following after him was Sakura, wearing a light gray coat and a casual beige blouse and jeans combo. Rin's mother glanced at Beta and waved. "Sorry for the hold up. A certain idiot kept insisting on a date and wouldn't let me leave until I dragged him out of the place."

Beta sighed. "I hope he is at least remembering to take care of Tsuki properly..." She frowned and said, "My younger sister would... Let us say that she would be very put out if something were to happen to her best friend."

Sakura dragged a chair over from the side before plopping it down in front of Beta's desk. "Don't worry. I made sure to hammer that fact into the idiot's head before I came here. Anyway..." She crossed her legs and said, "We just doing an overview today? Or are we preparing for the presentation?"

Ichiro grabbed a chair as well and sat down next to Sakura. Letting out a sigh, he said, "I still can't believe we're presenting at that expo... and that we're having an entire booth to ourselves."

Emily sat down on the desk beside Beta and then rounded on Ichiro. "You had better believe it! And you had also better not embarrass Mistress with any sloppy work!"

Ichiro let out a nervous laugh.

Beta shifted her cup of coffee to the side and then leaned forward on the desk. "Well then. I suppose we should get started. The demo is mostly complete, but we should review our itinerary as well as the key aspects to highlight for the expo..."

Regarding Emily, I'll just say that jokes are the deepest lore.

Anyway, I updated the glossary a bit with some new entries and images. There are entries for John's 'sisters' now along with some rough concept art, as well as an entry for Sitri, Shin, Xander, and Toby. Also with some rough concept art.

Still can't find a good anime generator for gruff male characters though, so we get some sorta realistic ones instead. Just imagine them kind of in Jojo style I guess? :shrug:

https://www.scribblehub.com/series/221239/returning-transcendent-opens-an-idol-agency/glossary/

Still dealing with the heat and rearranging my workspace to handle it. Thanks for understanding.

Oh, and for those who want to see my rough concept art for Sitri and John's sisters without going to the glossary, here you go.

Spoiler

Sitri

Sitri

Xuannu

Zhaojun

Daji

[collapse]

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