188 – Ain’t Nothing but a Heartache
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Time quickly passed as the preparations for the sudden babyshower began.

At the center of said preparations... at least in terms of gathering everyone, was John.

Making calls, arranging transportation, sending cars and clearing the roads...

And eventually, there were only two people left to pick up.

John parked his car outside of a Western styled house in Kichijoji, waiting for his guests to come out. As he did, he looked up at the sky.

It was clear now. The stormy clouds had vanished a while ago, and there was only a clear orange sky from the setting sun, along with a few stray white clouds. Though, with how quickly everything cleared up, that was strange...

'Yeah, that's my bad.'

A voice in John's head. Titor.

"...Your bad?" John frowned. "What'd you do? No, are you the reason why this all got messed up?"

'Not... entirely? But I'll explain more when we're alone. In private. And absolutely away from prying eyes.'

"And we aren't-" John paused and then squinted at the sky. "...Oh right." John sighed. "Fine. You still showing up?"

'Of course. If I didn't, you'd drag me out there in person.'

"You know it. But still..." John looked up at the sky and shook his head. "Gimme a break. Honestly, just a month or two with nothing drastic, dramatic, or heartrending going on. Seriously, is that too much to ask?"

Silence. But as if to reassure him, the clouds dispersed even more, completely revealing the setting sun.

John snorted and shook his head. He turned his attention back to the house and then saw a young girl run over, waving. Curly light brown hair, clear blue eyes and a cute smile, all bundled up with a puffy pink parka and matching earmuffs... Tsuki Jin.

She opened the back door and hopped in. "Mister John! It's been a while!"

John looked at her with the rearview mirror and smiled. "It really has, Miss Tsuki. Have you been well?"

"Mmhm! It's been super great!"

The passenger side door opened and then a gruff voice echoed. "It's been quite some time, Friend."

Kai Jin. John's self-proclaimed friend, former Chairman of the Torabu Clan, and currently self-employed businessman working from home. He brushed some snow off his black coat and then sat down in the car, placing a shopping bag on the floor. After closing the door, he held out his hand to John. "I take it you've been well?"

John shook it and said, "As well as I can in this crazy world. How about you? Cooled your head?"

"...Yes." Kai sighed. "I've had many conversations wiht many friends and acquaintances about my actions and done some reflecting. Though I believe I still need to have one with you."

Tsuki gasped and then leaned forward. "Does that mean I can hang out with Meggie again, Daddy? You talking to Mister John means that we're going to Mister John's house, right?"

"Ah. That's..." Kai looked troubled.

John laughed and said, "Of course, Tsuki. You're always welcome to hang out with Meggie whenever you want. And please do. My youngest daughter tends to get a bit snippy when she doesn't have fun."

Tsuki leaned back and laughed. "That's true. Meggie's funny like that. But she's super cool too!"

John raised an eyebrow. "Oh?"

"Mmhm! Like how she has superpowers and really good kung fu!" Tsuki paused, her eyes widened. "Does Mister John have superpowers too?!"

Kai froze, warily staring at John.

John waved his hand and let out a relaxed smile. "Nah. Nothing incredible. I've just picked up a lot of tricks over my life. That, and I'm very good at seeing the world in a different perspective."

"Oooh! So *that's* how you have all the cool technology!"

John winked and said, "That's a trade secret. Anyway..." John locked the doors and said, "We should get going. Seatbelts, you two."

"Okay~!"

"Understood."

After his passengers were settled in and buckled up, John drove off.

It was a fairly lengthy drive back to Roppongi from Kichijoji, so they had time to spare. Because of that, John took the time to check the surroundings.

There were huge snowdrifts on the sides of the roads, but for the most part, it had been cleared out. Though, that was because John couldn't really have people drive over if the roads were still covered, so he pulled a few strings... Or rather, winds to clear things out.

Glancing in the rearview mirror, it seemed like Tsuki was entertaining herself with some games, pulling out a Mintendo Switch from her parka, along with a pair of headphones.

Silence, with nothing but the wind and the car engine.

John glanced over at Kai and said, "How've things been going? You got your affairs settled, right?"

"Hm? Ah." Kai nodded and said, "I have. It's been... troublesome with the cleanup, but I've been doing well. Though, it seems like my old teacher is in more of a mess than I am."

"Your old teacher?" John furrowed his brow and then said, "Ah. You mean Mister Miyamoto."

"The one and the same." Kai sighed and leaned back in his chair. Resting his arm against the door, he looked out the window and said, "There were more traces of his involvement than mine because of the transition, so he's been getting bothered more by the authorities. Of course, since he's famous, they aren't probing too deeply, but they're still being troublesome." He shook his head and said, "I actually had to stay out late the other night to help sort through his documents."

Tsuki looked up from the back and said, "Oh. So that's why Daddy was out late again..."

Kai let out a wry smile and then looked back at Tsuki. "Sorry, Princess."

Tsuki shook her head and said, "It's fine! I got to play with Meggie and her aunt Xuanni!"

John blinked and said, "Xuanni? You mean Xuannu?"

"Yep!" Tsuki nodded and said, "She's really good at games, Mister John! After I explained how iframes worked, Miss Xuanni picked it up really fast!"

John laughed. "Yeah, well my big sister hates to lose, so that makes sense."

"Hm?" Kai glanced over and said, "Big Sister? I wasn't aware you had any siblings."

John turned the corner at an intersection and then said, "It's complicated. But don't worry. I'll sort things out and introduce everyone to each other when we get there." He scowled and glanced at the sky. "Some bastard up there keeps making things complicated for me with all these misunderstandings, so I'm going to make sure it's all settled. Well, in terms of relationships." He glanced at Kai and said, "I'll explain the other stuff some time later."

"Ah." Kai nodded. "That's probably for the best. After all, it would-"

"Shush!"

Kai blinked. "S-Shush?"

John quickly shook his head and said, "Don't tempt fate. Or have you forgotten everything that's happened these past few weeks?"

Tsuki laughed and said, "I didn't think Mister John was so superstitious!"

John let out a wry smile. "I didn't think I was either."

And then the worst possible scenarios had been literally unfolding before his eyes... Yeah. He wasn't taking any more chances.

Kai caught his smile and then groaned. "...Thanks for the heads up. ...And that explains a lot about what's been happening."

"Mmhm."

After that, the rest of the trip passed by in silence. A slow, comfortable car ride beneath the evening sky across a snowy landscape.

Until at last they arrived in the Myth Inc. HQ parking lot.

John parked the car and then got out. "Here we are... And it looks like everyone else is here too."

Kai stepped out and brushed his coat. Staring at the approaching cars, he nodded. "...It seems like this will be a fairly large babyshower."

Tsuki hopped out of the car as well and then said, "That's great! That means that Mister John and Miss Yue will get a lot of presents!"

John chuckled. "That wasn't my intention... but that should make Yue happy."

Seeing so many people come with gifts and wishing her well would do a lot to cheer her up.

John smiled and then glanced over at the cars coming in.

The first car, a black BMW, drifted in, perfectly parked in a spot as it came to a stop. When it did, the passenger side door opened and laughter echoed.

"That was fun, Aneue! You didn't tell me that drifting was so cool!"

"...You're weird, Sis. You know that?"

Rin and Asako, both wearing matching gray winter coats.

Rin noticed John and then waved. "Oh! Mister John! Uncle Kai! And Tsuki!" Rin smiled and said, "It's nice to see you again!"

Asako waved as well. "John. ...Mister Jin."

Kai shook his head. "Of course," he muttered. "She's involved in all of this too. I forgot."

John frowned and glanced over at him. "You know Asako? I mean, I guess that makes sense, but-"

"Long story."

The pair of sisters walked over, carrying gift bags with them.

And then a taxi cab pulled into the parking lot, neatly parking a few spots away from Asako's car. The front doors opened and two men stepped out.

One was wearing a pristine white suit with a red shirt underneath. The other, a thick green coat.

Kiri and Saji.

Saji walked around to the back and opened the door. And the moment he did, two young girls hobbled out. One with black twin-tails and wearing a puffy white coat, and the other with short white hair wearing a puffy black coat.

Saji helped the girls steady themselves and then chuckled. "I told you it would be hard to move around in those."

"Yes, but it was cold, Aniki!" Xuan shivered and said, "At the least we are warm like this."

"Oh! Sister!" Wu tugged Xuan's coat and said, "Look!"

John let out a wry smile and then held up his hand. "Hey girls."

"Big brother!"

"Father!"

The two girls ran over and gave John a hug.

Xuan looked up at John and said, "We have missed you!"

Wu patted John down and said, "Have you been well? Was your trip safe?"

John laughed and hugged the girls back. "It's been... an experience. And I'm sorry."

"It is fine!" Xuan nodded. "Big Brother has always been unreliable."

"Sister!" Wu rounded on Xuan and said, "That is mean! Father is just unlucky!"

Xuan smiled. "Then it is good that we are here!" She turned to John and said, "I will ensure your fortune is great, Big Brother!"

John patted the two girls on the head. But before he could say anything else, another car pulled up. A silver sedan.

A man wearing a snakeskin coat and bearing his midriff even in the cold stepped out from the driver's seat. Maji. He glanced over at John and held up his hand. "Yo! We late, Boss?"

John looked towards him and shook his head. "Just on time."

The passenger side door opened, revealing a young woman with blonde hair and light brown eyes. Yuri, idly holding a pink gift bag against her beige coat. She glanced at John and then averted her gaze.

"Oi." Maji walked over and lightly tapped Yuri on the arm. "Don't be rude, Kid."

"Fine." Yuri glanced at John and then lowered her gaze. "Um... Thanks for inviting us. I brought a gift for your wife. And..." She trailed off, mumbling something that vaguely sounded like 'sorry for causing a scene.'

Maji sighed.

John chuckled and said, "Don't worry about it. I already knew that you were a tsundere, Yuri."

She instantly raised her head and jabbed a finger at John. "Tsun-?! You crazy bastard! I should-!" Yuri froze and then quickly bowed her head. "Ah. I mean... Sorry?"

Rin giggled and then said, "Well, it seems like Miss Yuri is being a bit more honest since the last time I saw you."

"Hm?" Yuri looked over and then tilted her head. "You're that girl that was with John. And-" Her brown eyes flicked towards Asako... and then Yuri froze.

Asako laughed. "Well look who we have here? If it isn't the spunky brat that was always with Ichiro."

"A-A-Anego?!"

Kai sighed and rubbed the bridge of his nose. "What a mess."

Yuri looked at Kai and then gasped. "You too, Uncle Kai?! What are you doing with that guy?!"

Kai waved his hand. "Long story."

Another car pulled up. A pink luxury sedan.

Sakura stepped out and held up a gift bag. "Sorry I'm late! Had to pick up Betty and some gifts!"

Beta stepped out as well and then looked around. Afterwards, she looked at John and smiled. "It seems that you have made quite a few friends since we have last met."

John stared at his second daughter's bright and relaxed face before smiling. "And it looks like my Betty's been having fun. You enjoying your independent lifestyle?"

Beta laughed and walked over with Sakura. "Yes. I have been working on quite the enjoyable side project. Ah, though I suppose having a comfy bedwarmer to cuddle with at night helps."

"...Yeah, you're not living up to your supposed purity at all, are you?"

Beta froze and then flushed a deep red. "F-Father!" She quickly glanced around at everyone and then said, "Do not embarrass me in public!"

Asako laughed and then shook her head. "Yeah right. Betty? Pure? Pft." She looked at Beta and said, "As if you could ever hide that perverted streak of yours, Betty."

Beta crossed her arms and then raised an eyebrow. "And who was the one who enjoyed all of that research?"

Asako flinched.

Rin gasped and rounded on Asako. "Aneue?!"

"I-It was one time! On accident!"

Tsuki tilted her head and looked at Rin. "What are you talking about, Rin nee-chan?"

"A-Ah." Rin blushed. "That's... It's... um... Uncle Kai!" She turned to Kai and said, "You explain it!"

Kai flinched. "W-What?"

Tsuki turned to Kai. "Daddy? What's Rin nee-chan talking about?"

"That's... Um... Well you see, Princess... Oh, look who we have here!? More visitors!" Kai pointed in the distance.

Fortunately for him, he was right.

Another car pulled into the parking lot. This time, a black sedan.

The back doors opened and a tomboyish girl with short hair stepped out. She turned to the driver's seat and said, "Thanks for picking me up, Mister Kimura!"

Takashi stepped out from the driver's side and nodded. "It's nothing, Yozora-san. You've been taking care of Chi-chan as her senpai, so it's only natural."

An old man stepped out of the passenger side and chuckled. "It's good that Chi-chan finally has a friend. Now if only Yuri were the same..." Minato Miyamoto.

Chihiro stepped out from the back of the car while reading a book.

Takashi glanced at her and sighed. "You could be a bit more excited about this, Chi-chan."

"Sorry, Papa. But Sensei graded our tests wrong." Chihiro adjusted her red-rimmed glasses and said, "I want to make sure he didn't grade our last ones wrong as well."

Beta sighed and muttered, "I will need to speak with him..."

The latest group walked over. And as they did, Yuri pointed at the girls and said, "Chihiro-chan?! Shu?!"

The tomboyish girl... Shu Yozora waved and said, "Yuri-chan! Long time no see!" She quickly closed the gap and grabbed Yuri's arm.

Yuri flinched and let out a nervous laugh.

Shu stared into her eyes and smiled. "So. Why did you drop out of school?"

Yuri started to sweat.

John watched the events unfolding and let out a warm smile.

Conversations were starting up all around. People introducing themselves, catching up...

And then John felt someone tug his shirt.

He glanced over and saw that it was Rin.

She smiled and said, "I don't mean to bother you, Mister John, but should we go inside? That's everyone, right?"

"Mm... Almost." John stared into the distance.

And then a red corvette pulled into the parking lot. And the people who stepped out...

"Fwahahaha! Just as I planned, the organization is complete! Like this, the world order shall be overturned and we will open the gate at last!"

A black-haired young man with slicked back hair wearing a white lab coat.

"Seriously? You don't have any shame, do you? Hah..."

A young woman with auburn hair, also wearing a lab coat.

Asako glanced over and then flinched. Her eyes widened and then she rounded on John, pointing at him. "W-Wait?!" She did a double take and then said, "That guy wasn't you?! You're not John Titor?!"

John laughed and then walked over to Titor. Smirking just like the mad scientist, he said, "So this is the choice of Stein's Gate..." His blue eyes flicked over to the young woman. "...And it seems that you achieved Operation Skuld. So." He glanced back at Titor and cracked his knuckles while letting out a bright smile. "Do you want one knuckle sandwich? Or two?"

Titor froze and then he let out a deep sigh. "I'll explain later."

John glanced at the sky and then nodded. "Right. But it'd better be a good explanation. Now..." He shifted his gaze back to the woman. "This is...?"

The woman met John's gaze and then averted her eyes. "...Amadeus. Amadeus Christina."

John frowned.

She was weird.

Amadeus... considering Titor's influence, that made sense. The two were a matching pair, after all. But... The young woman reminded him a lot of Yue. Her appearance was similar, and the way she carried herself was the same too. But there was something else around her that reminded him of another woman. Yet, a veil of karmic threads prevented him from finding out who that woman was.

Well, he *could* figure it out. But if Amadeus went through the trouble to hide her identity and Titor was allowing it, John would be rude to forcibly reveal it.

So he didn't. Instead, he turned back to everyone and clapped his hands.

The lively conversations stopped.

John smiled and said, "I hope you're all hungry, because it's going to be a long night. Now... let's get going."

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