Xuannu cast her gaze across the surroundings, faint wonder in her heart. "So mortals could create such a fascinating display as well..."
It was night time, but the surroundings were filled with colorful lights and glittering displays.
The sight of towering buildings wasn't new to Xuannu. In fact, compared to those that she had seen in the past, the stone structures surrounding her weren't even close to the heaven-defying heights that had been created in the Three Realms.
But what was marvelous about it all was that there was not a single speck of spiritual energy or divine aura in anything.
She had noticed it before on her first trip, as well as when that little dragon had taken her and the others around to tour the city, but walking within it beneath the starry sky like she was now was an entirely different experience.
Meggie huffed and said, "It's not that impressive. They're just buildings."
Xuannu shook her head and then looked over at her niece.
Meggie stared at the surroundings with disinterested golden eyes and crossed arms. While she was wearing a casual black sweatshirt and jeans, an outfit that her mother wouldn't wear, that cold expression was all too similar to Yue's.
Seeing that made Xuannu want to sigh, but she didn't. Instead, she wrapped an arm around Meggie's shoulder and pulled her close. "Oh come on, Meggie. Humor your Auntie for a bit."
Meggie squirmed and said, "Fine! Just let me go already!" She wiggled some more and then broke free from Xuannu's embrace. Afterwards, she glared at Xuannu.
Of course, it wasn't a real glare. Instead, it was the same sort of expression that Johnny had when he was exasperated by Xuannu's antics.
Xuannu smiled and then held out her right hand to Meggie.
Meggie rolled her eyes and then walked over, grabbing Xuannu's hand. "Geez. You're even more embarrassing than Dad."
"I can't help wanting to be close to my cute niece, can I?"
Meggie snorted and looked away. But even so, a faint smile showed up on her face.
That was good. It seemed like the princess hadn't made Meggie into a carbon copy of her just yet.
Xuannu hummed and then swung her arm, walking alongside Meggie. As she did, she cast her gaze around the surroundings again.
Since she just wanted to spend some quality time with her favorite niece before that princess came back and tried to assert her position again, instead of Xuannu's usual outfit, she had changed into something more subdued. Rather than her crimson silk gown, she wore a dark brown long coat over a black dress and brown boots.
...Though considering her beauty, as well as Meggie's appearance, it didn't do too much to help.
But that was what concealment formations were for, and Xuannu had those applied in spades.
Meggie looked around their surroundings and said, "Why did we have to go out, anyway?" She looked up at Xuannu and said, "If you wanted to spend time with me, couldn't we have just played some games back in Onee-chan's room?"
"True... But Auntie never got a chance to take her favorite niece out by herself." Xuannu looked at Meggie and let out a sly smile. "And now we have the night all to ourselves. Isn't that fun?"
No Johnny to mess things up with his natural trouble magnet, no uptight princess to say what they could or couldn't do... Just Xuannu and her cute little niece who was still a bit too dishonest about what she liked and wanted to do.
Hopefully Xuannu could change that and get her niece to lighten up a bit. It wasn't good for someone so young and cute to be so serious.
"Favorite niece...?" Meggie muttered and then shook her head. "Shouldn't Onee-chan or Big Sister Betty be your favorite niece, Auntie?" She bit her lip and then looked to ground. "Compared to those two... I've still got a long way to go."
"Hm?" Xuannu frowned. "That's not like you, Meggie. Did something happen?"
She remembered her niece confidently saying that she was better and would be better than both of her eldest sisters combined. Even when hearing about what they did in the past, Meggie never wavered. But now... she was acting like she couldn't match up?
Meggie shifted and said, "No. But..." She kicked a bit of snow lying on the ground and said, "Now that I've spent time with my big sisters... They're incredible, you know?" Meggie sighed and said, "Onee-chan is naturally talented at being adorable and is helping Dad out with his business. And then Big Sister Betty is already doing things on her own." She frowned and said, "Compared to them... I didn't even manage to protect Mom. And since we've been here, all I've done is waste time."
Xuannu pulled Meggie into a hug.
"Wha- Auntie! Let me-!"
"You silly girl." Xuannu patted Meggie's back and said, "There's no need to be in a rush to grow up, you know?"
Meggie tensed and then pushed Xuannu away. Sticking her hands into her sweatshirt pocket, she looked away and muttered, "What would you know?"
It was unfortunate.
Both Johnny and the princess really weren't prepared to raise a child yet... at least not a proper one. But the two had rushed into it and made Meggie... Or rather 'Ex Nihilo Omega.'
Johnny insisted that he knew what to do since he had raised Alphy and Betty and that princess said that it would come naturally for them since Meggie was theirs.
Of course, neither of the two had considered the circumstances into which they brought a child into the world, especially one as unique as Meggie.
A divine construct given fragments of both that princess's Dao of Perfection and Johnny's Dao of Accumulation in order to form a soul and then drops of lifeblood from them both in order to form a true flesh and blood body...
A child born as a toddler and capable of comprehending the world around her from the beginning, even forming her own unique path of cultivation.
...And a complete blank slate who quickly matured to try and please them without either realizing what she was doing.
Xuannu felt a flicker of anger again at how both Johnny and that princess hadn't realized Meggie's actions for what they were and let it get this far... but then she let it go.
There was no changing what had already occurred, but at least going forward Xuannu could get Meggie to relax and enjoy a proper childhood.
Xuannu walked over to Meggie and gently grabbed her hand. With a smile, she said, "I guess you're right. Auntie doesn't know as much as her smart and cute favorite niece. But Auntie does know that she wants her Meggie to be happy and enjoy life. So don't stress yourself and rush to grow up, okay?"
Meggie looked at Xuannu and then averted her gaze. Staring at the ground, she muttered, "Sorry Auntie."
"It's okay." Xuannu patted Meggie's hand and said, "No matter how you act, Auntie will always love and support her cute and hard-working niece. So take your time, alright?"
"...You're too nice, Auntie."
Xuannu laughed and then hugged Meggie. "Only to my favorite niece."
"H-Hey! I didn't say you could hug me!"
"Oh. Then should Auntie let go?"
"...I didn't say that I didn't like it."
Xuannu laughed again and gave Meggie a light squeeze before stepping back. "Now, let's go take a look around and find some food." After adjusting her grip on Meggie's hand, Xuannu hummed and started walking down the streets.
Meggie quickly moved to Xuannu's side and said, "Do you even have any money? You just came from the Three Realms, didn't you?"
"Oh, don't worry about that." Xuannu held up a black credit card with 'Myth Inc.' written on it in gold letters. "Since Auntie's going to be taking care of you while your father's out with your mother, it's only fair that your father pays for our fun, isn't it?"
Meggie blinked and then giggled. "Dad's going to be mad when he finds out, Auntie."
Xuannu waved her hand and said, "Oh it'll be fine. Wouldn't be the first time I borrowed Johnny's money for a trip. Besides." She let out a sly smile and said, "To a big sister, her little brother's money is as good as hers."
Meggie shook her head and said, "Auntie's not really a good role model, you know?"
"Well, don't tell your mother then. Or do. Might be fun to see the princess riled up a bit."
Meggie frowned and said, "Why do you and Mom not like each other, Auntie? Did something happen between you?"
"Mm..." Xuannu put the card away and said, "It's not that I dislike your mother for who she is..."
The princess had been pretty pitiful after all. Trapped under the burden of being the Jade Emperor's only daughter, born at the cost of her mother's life, and destined to perish before ever reaching enlightenment on her path... Yes, Xuannu thought that the princess was someone who definitely was worthy of pity and empathy.
Which was why she didn't mind it when Johnny went out of his way to help her after their chance meeting.
...But Xuannu never expected that he would fall so deeply in love with the princess, or that the princess would be moved enough to even stray away from the path of 'Perfection' that she walked her entire existence.
"...I just think that she's not a good match for your father."
It would have been best for that princess to have remained the way she was as the 'eternal ice maiden.' A perfect and pure existence standing aloof and untouchable.
...But she met Johnny and fell from grace. Fell hard enough that she was willing to throw away her cultivation and study karma just to chase after him all the way here in this distant mortal world and waste all of the treasures she had accumulated her entire life just to open the path.
That in itself was enough to make Xuannu disapprove of their match. As Johnny's teacher, she couldn't approve of him being with a girl like that who would throw everything away just to follow after him. Who could not and would not be able to live without him.
But in the end... Well, Johnny had always been the sort of person to act in unexpected ways. That was part of his charm and the reason why so many women across the Three Realms, mortal, divine, and demonic alike, fell for him.
...Though to think that in the end such a rogue would end up choosing to be so stubbornly traditional...
"Ah." Meggie nodded and said, "I know what you mean." She frowned and said, "Someone as childish and carefree as Dad doesn't suit a woman as elegant and kind as Mom. Not to mention how he always avoids his responsibilities..."
That princess? Kind?
...It seemed like she had either changed a lot, or that children really only saw the best in their favorite parents.
Still, Xuannu thought it would be cruel to mock that princess in front of Meggie, so she said, "Well, make sure to tell your father off then."
"Oh I will." Meggie nodded and said, "He might have gotten Mom and my big sisters distracted with his promises and warm words, but I won't be tricked by him again!"
Meggie blushed and quickly looked around. "U-Um... You said you were hungry right? How about we eat there?"
Xuannu laughed and looked towards where Meggie was pointing.
It was a small cafe with sign nearby that had the name 'God's Tongue' on it. Although the front window was covered by curtains, light still shone through and the sign on the door said it was open.
Meggie said, "It won't be that good since the food will be prepared by mortals, but if a place dares to call itself by that name, it should be decent, right?"
Xuannu hummed, placing a finger on her chin. "I suppose so. And there does seem to be something curious about this place..."
It was faint, but she could detect a familiar presence in the area. No, not a presence, but a few traces of power. Specifically, John's power.
From Meggie's reaction, it seemed like she hadn't noticed. And Xuannu hadn't either... but it seemed like the two of them must have subconsciously headed towards the building.
"Well." Xuannu walked forward. "Since fate led us here, let's have a look, shall we?" She opened the door and entered the cafe, Meggie trailing behind her.
A soft chime echoed. When it did, a young woman with blonde hair and brown eyes walked out from the back of the cafe. Brushing her hands against her apron, she looked towards Xuannu and Meggie. Bowing her head, she said, "I'm sorry, Miss, but we're closed tonight."
Meggie frowned and then stepped forward. "If you're closed, then why was the sign still on open? You're misleading potential customers!"
The young woman's eye twitched, but she bowed her head again and said, "My humblest apologies, young Miss. However-"
Before she could say anything else, a polite young girl's voice called out from the side. "Eh? Meggie?! Is that you?!"
Meggie blinked and then her eyes lit up. Turning to the side, she smiled and said, "Tsuki!"
Xuannu frowned. "Tsuki?" She turned as well, curious about who could have caused her usually serious niece to suddenly be so carefree and happy.
A cute young girl with light brown hair and clear blue eyes. Well, not too young. She was a girl that still had the traces of childish youth, but was in the transitioning period between a child and a teenager. Wearing a fluffy pink sweatshirt and light blue pants, she dashed over to hug Meggie and said, "I've missed you so much!"
Meggie hugged Tsuki back and said, "I've missed you too, Tsuki- I-I mean, it's good to see you!"
The blonde young woman walked over to Tsuki and then frowned, giving Xuannu a cautious look. At the same time, she subtly shifted her stance before saying, "Do you know these two, Tsuki?"
"Mmhm!" Tsuki nodded and pulled Meggie to her side. "Meggie's my best friend, Yuri nee-chan!" She paused and then looked to Xuannu. "Um... I don't think I've met this pretty Onee-san yet though."
Xuannu laughed and then reached out to pat Tsuki's head. "Well, well. To think that my cute niece would fall for a sweet little angel like this..."
"A-Auntie!" Meggie blushed and said, "Stop making fun of me!"
Xuannu stared at the silver wing pendant around Tsuki's neck for a bit and then said, "I'm Meggie's Auntie, Xuannu. Nice to meet you... Miss Tsuki, is it?"
"It's just Tsuki! And nice to meet you too, Meggie's Auntie! Oh!" She looked to Yuri and said, "Nee-chan! Could you make some food for Meggie and her Auntie too? I think it'd be fun to eat together with everyone, don't you?"
Yuri looked towards Xuannu, hesitating. "I'm not sure, Tsuki..."
Seeing that, Xuannu smiled and said, "Oh, don't feel pressured to give us a free meal. Here." She held out John's credit card and said, "Take whatever costs for the meal out of this card."
Tsuki's eyes widened and she shook her head. "No!" She walked forward and pulled down Xuannu's hand. "I can't let Meggie's Auntie pay for food!"
Xuannu smiled and said, "You're sweet, but don't worry about it. Since it's the first time meeting my cute niece's best friend, the least I can do is to treat us all to a nice meal."
...Especially when it isn't her paying.
"Well..." Tsuki frowned and let go of Xuannu's hand. "When you put it like that..."
Meggie waved her hand and said, "Don't worry about it, Tsuki. Auntie has all the money in the world to use." A mischievous glint filled her eyes as she looked at Xuannu. "Right, Auntie?"
Xuannu responded with a sly smile. "Of course, my cute niece." She turned back to Yuri and held out the card. "Now, please, don't hold back. Take whatever price is appropriate for the best meal you can prepare from this card."
Yuri sighed. "Fine. If you insist... and since Tsuki's so happy to see you two..." She took the card and walked back to the register to swipe it. But when she turned the card to examine it, she froze.
Xuannu frowned. "Is there a problem?"
Yuri shook her head and then gave Xuannu a bright smile. "Not at all, Miss!" She swiped the card and then grabbed a few menus from under the counter before walking back. She handed the card back to Xuannu and then gave her a menu. "Here you are. And please, feel free to choose whatever you want from the menu! I'll do my absolute best to prepare it for you!" After that, she handed Meggie a menu too.
Xuannu's frown deepened.
The sudden change in attitude from the young woman was strange.
Xuannu glanced at the credit card again and muttered, "Is his company's prestige already that great?"
"Auntie!" Meggie waved from a booth in the back and said, "Come sit down already!"
"Yes!" Tsuki waved from beside her and said, "Please, come sit!"
Seeing the two young girls insisting... and seeing her cute niece so happy and energetic, Xuannu decided to set the matter aside for the moment.
After all, her favorite niece's smile was much more important than whatever that young woman had to do with Johnny's company-
"Oh yeah!" Tsuki reached over into a bag sitting next to her and pulled out a tablet. "Alfi's stream is going to start in a bit. Did you want to watch it with me, Meggie?" She placed it on the table in front of Meggie and shifted closer to her.
Meggie frowned and stared at the screen. "Onee-chan is?"
"Mmhm! Also, Daddy said I can use his card again, so we can have fun Superchatting! Did you know that UTube added stickers and animations? Here, let me show you." Tsuki opened the waiting room chat for Alfi's stream and then tapped on the screen a few times. Afterwards, a red Superchat with a flurry of rose petals appeared in the chat. "See?!"
Meggie's eyes lit up. "Oh? Can I try?"
"Sure!" She slid the tablet over to Meggie and said, "Daddy said I can do as many as I want, so don't worry!"
Xuannu blinked, suddenly coming to a realization.
...No wonder Tsuki and Meggie got along so well. It seemed like Tsuki's father was just as irresponsible as Meggie's...