194 – Office banter between Prodigies
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A recently renovated floor in the Myth Inc. HQ, turned into a lounge for the Project MirAIs members to relax and hang out.

In the middle of it, there was a group of long couches, arranged in a U shape around a table, with a refrigerator filled with soda and other chilled drinks nearby. There, the newest members of Project MirAIs were waiting after finishing their paperwork to join.

Shu flopped onto the couch in the middle of the 'U' and cracked open a can of soda. "I can't believe we're going to be idols!"

Yuri tucked a strand of her blonde hair behind her ear and sat down to Shu's right. She opened her own can of soda and took a sip. The moment she did, she winced and lowered it, muttering. "I can't either." She frowned and said, "Is that guy really letting me join...?"

Suzume walked back from the fridge with a can of tea and sat on the side of the 'U' to the other girls' left. After adjusting the ribbon on her uniform, she nodded and said, "Yes. I had been told it was likely I would join, but to know that I am confirmed a position..."

"Speak for yourselves." Chihiro sipped on a can of coffee and plopped onto the couch opposite of Suzume. Pulling out her phone, she said, "I already knew I was going to get in."

Yuri rolled her eyes and then put her arm around the back of the couch. After that, she took a long drink from her soda can like it was a can of beer instead. When she was finished, she grimaced and shook her head. But then she looked at Chihiro and said, "Isn't your dad a staff at Myth Inc. now too?"

Chihiro nodded. "Yes. And your uncles appear to be close friends with Mister Smith, so I don't think you're in a place to talk about nepotism, Yuri Senpai."

"Grk." Yuri winced and went back to quietly sipping her soda.

Shu scratched her head, ruffling her short black hair. "Hm... If you two made it in because you knew someone, then why did I... Oh yeah! I ran into Mister John at Starbox before when I was working." She laughed and said, "Maybe I made a good impression! That's gotta be why I got let in!"

Suzume opened a can of tea. Holding it in both hands, she took a sip and then smiled at Shu. "I think that you would make a good impression on anyone, Shu."

Shu raised her can towards Suzume and laughed. "Thanks, Suzu! But I can say the same for you! A real shrine maiden that's as beautiful and elegant like you are can get any job, you know?"

Suzume fiddled with her long orange hair and then took a deep sip from her tea, her ears turning red.

Yuri tapped Shu's arm and said, "Hey! You're embarrassing her."

"What? I am?" She looked back to Suzume and quickly bowed her head. "Sorry, Suzu!"

Chihiro took a long sip from her coffee and then sighed. "What a mess... Maybe I should have waited to apply for the next generation."

"What?!" Shu looked at Chihiro and said, "You're telling me you don't want to be idols with your Senpais?"

"Yes. It would have been great if I didn't know anyone. But now it's going to be awkward at school." She paused and looked at Yuri. "Well, maybe not for Yuri Senpai since she dropped out."

"H-Hey!" Yuri blushed and said, "It's just for one semester, okay? I'll be back next year!"

"Oh. That's true." Chihiro nodded. "Then that means that we'll be in the same class... So I guess I don't need to call you Senpai anymore."

Suzume gasped. "Chihiro! That's mean! It can't be helped that Yuri couldn't finish her school work!"

Shu burst out laughing and wrapped her arm around Yuri's shoulders. "See? This is what you get for not graduating with me like you promised!"

"Oh shut up, Shu." Yuri took a deep swig from her soda and then shook her head. "I don't want to hear it from the girl who ran away from home to avoid inheriting your family dojo."

"Oi! They were going to make me train for ten more years! I'm not doing that!"

"And I was sick of studying, so I'm taking a year off. Same thing, right?"

"Um..." Suzume looked between Shu and Yuri and said, "Um... I don't think it's the same thing, Yuri..."

Chihiro nodded. "Yeah. Shu Senpai still has a guaranteed job. Yuri just threw away her future."

Yuri flinched and then pointed at Chihiro. "What did I even do to you, Chihiro? Why are you bringing all that up against me, huh? What'd I ever do to you?"

"You enabled Sensei when he got inspired by Food Wars and caused us all to fail our tests because he taught us nonsense for an entire week."

Yuri blinked and then face-palmed. "Dammit, Aniki..."

Suzume frowned and looked towards Chihiro. "Even if that might be true, Chihiro. Don't you think you're being a bit too mean to Yuri?"

"Mm." Chihiro finished the rest of her coffee and set the can down on the table in front of her. "It may be mean, but it's the truth. And Papa taught me to not lie."

"Wait." Yuri lowered her hands and then stared at Chihiro. "...But aren't you the only one of us who hid that she was auditioning? I think I overheard your dad saying that during the party."

Chihiro shrugged. "Omission is not a lie. And even if I did, it isn't like it harmed anyone."

Yuri snapped her arm out and pointed at Chihiro. "So you *do* lie!"

"Awake at bed sometimes wondering what to do with my life when I'm uninspired by what to draw, yes."

"...Huh?"

Suzume laughed.

Yuri blushed and glared at her. "I thought you were against Chihiro being mean to me!"

"I'm sorry! But Chihiro's reply was too perfect!" Suzume smiled and looked at Chihiro. "You're really witty!"

Chihiro adjusted her glasses and said, "You get used to it when everyone in your life is either immature, unstable, or always picking up trouble."

Yuri turned red and said, "I am not immature!"

Chihiro stared at her phone and nodded. "That's right. You're unstable. Sensei is the immature one, and Shu Senpai is always picking up trouble."

"Unstable?!" Yuri jumped out of her chair and jabbed a finger at Chihiro. "You wanna go, huh?!"

"Proving my point, Yuri."

Yuri froze and then slowly sat back down. "...Sorry."

Shu patted Yuri's shoulder and said, "It's fine, Yuri. You can't help being born crazy."

"I was *not* born crazy!"

Shu shook her head. "You don't have to hide it. I've got some cousins who are like that too, you know? Perfectly normal and then BAM! Suddenly running around beating people up and sending them flying."

Yuri blushed. "I don't do that!" She paused. "...Not anymore."

Suzume's eyes widened. "Wow. You two seem like you've lived amazing lives!"

Shu let out an awkward smile and rubbed the back of her neck. "Aha... It's just a legacy of a misspent youth."

Suzume blinked. "...But are you not the same age as me?"

Shu coughed.

Chihiro kicked her feet up on the table and said, "Better to not question it, Suzu. You'll keep more sanity points that way."

"Sanity points?"

"Anyway." Chihiro lowered her phone and glanced at the elevator. "Do you think we'll actually be practicing or anything today? Because if not, I want to head back."

Shu sighed and said, "You need to stop being a shut-in, Chi-chan."

"It's not being a shut-in. It's being productive. Unlike Yuri who's spent the last few weeks flailing about and only getting a job because Sensei helped."

Yuri jumped up and said, "Aniki told you?!"

"He mentioned he recommended someone. Good to get it confirmed though."

Yuri froze and then groaned. "Dammit..."

Suzume laughed. "Well, I think Yuri will be good at streaming. It's really funny to watch your reactions."

"I'm not sure how I feel about that..." Yuri sat back down and then chugged the rest of her soda.

A comfortable silence fell over the group.

And then a chime echoed. The sound of the elevator arriving. And when the doors opened...

"Fwahaha!" Titor walked out, smirking. "After facing the flames of the brightest sun, cosmic blows that could shatter universes, and rage that could turn back the heat death of ten cosmos, I have returned, my prodigies!"

A deep sigh echoed, followed by John walking out of the elevator. He ran his left hand through his blonde hair and muttered, "I need to apologize to Little Zhaojun, Alphy, and Betty... I didn't think I was this cringe."

Titor glanced back and laughed. "Cringe? How so, my other half?"

"..." John ignored Titor and looked to the girls. "So... I heard Titor gave you a brief orientation about how this all works, right?"

Shu jumped out of her seat and grinned. "Are you going to show us how you do it, Mister John?! No, are we going to make our idols too?!"

John chuckled. "Something like that. For now... Let's see what you're all good at. That'll help me out a lot in designing the tech setup you guys need to stream."

Titor smirked and said, "Yes! Come, prodigies! Let us see the fruits of your labors!"

"...Should I bring Amadeus over too, Titor?"

Titor flinched. "Ah. Sorry John."

"Thought so." He turned back to the girls and said, "Now come on. I'm going to be pretty busy soon, and I don't trust this guy handling everything, so let's get this done so that you girls can start prepping for debuts."

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