221 – Interlude – Disillusioned
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The area around John and Titor shimmered before dissolving into a flurry of white snowflakes. After that, the two reappeared at the front of the stage.

John looked to Titor and laughed. "I didn't think you were such a tsundere, Titor. Was it that bad to just say I love you to your waifu?"

Titor glared at John and said, "Just go explode already! We can't all be Mister Perfect like you, you damned riajuu!"

John gave Titor a blank stare and then slowly said, "Titor. You do remember that you can be just as handsome and suave as me if you try, right?" He paused and then said, "Is this because you went full otaku? Come on. You should know by now. You never go full otaku."

Titor walked over to the mic stand and put his mic back. After that, he spun around and crossed his arms. "Hmph." He glared at John and said, "A family man like you would never understand."

John shook his head and then walked over to put his mic back as well. After that, he tapped the air beside him, causing a glowing window to appear. It flickered, glitching out and spraying pixels, but it didn't disappear.

"Well... it looks like some messages are getting through again now in the chat. The background broke though... looks like all that chat spamming must have broken some style sheets or a plugin on the backend."

[otakuoctopus] Go die you normies!
[lovelyloon] That was so romantic!
[berrybarbatos] No! Padoru is coming!

John read the chat and then laughed. "Everyone's being a bit ridiculous... but it seems like it's working at least." He looked at Titor and said, "That was pretty fun though. You up for a Christmas album, Titor?"

Titor let out a cold laugh and said, "And let you redirect your fangirls my way? I'll pass. Though... Are you not afraid of getting mobbed after that performance?"

John rubbed the back of his neck and said, "Honestly, I'm more afraid of people trying to get close to Jenny when it's impossible."

[Tim_Ramsey] I have faith!
[goldengoose] Our goddess will return! You won't stop us!
[trappedturtle] I mean, it's fine either way...

Titor shook his head and said, "The ever distant dream will remain so until the end of time... That is how it must be. But seriously." He frowned and said, "You sure like hogging the limelight, oh Golden Emperor. Was this concert not for the sake of the girls?"

The crowd roared in agreement with Titor.

John laughed and waved his hands. "Sorry, sorry. It's a bad habit of mine to show off. I'll try to rein it back a bit more... Ah." He looked at Titor and said, "I'm serious about the Christmas album though."

Titor shook his head and said, "Hard pass. And you have a lovely wife already. Why not make one with her?"

John paused and then his eyes lit up. "That's a great idea!" He placed his hand on his chin and started pacing. "A Smith Family Christmas album... Yeah. We could do that. I can get Alfi and Betty involved, and then everyone else too... And at the end, we could sing Jingle Bells, wish everyone a happy new year..." He trailed off, mumbling to himself.

Titor rubbed his face and said, "Why do I have to break character and be the straightman whenever that guy talks about his family...?"

[straightsnake] That's because you're unambiguously straight?
[huntinghound] Because John is a heretic who needs to burn in the depths of hell!
[otakuoctopus] Obviously because only a true otaku can keep a riajuu like that in check!

Titor glanced at the chat and chuckled.

At that time, the area behind John and Titor rippled. When it did, Hana, Alfi, and Aoko returned.

John turned around and waved. "Welcome back! You girls have a good break?"

Alfi giggled and looked at Aoko. "Well, it was definitely fun."

Aoko's face turned red and she quickly said, "Nothing happened!"

Hana sighed.

John raised an eyebrow at Aoko. "Nothing happened, you say?"

Aoko's face turned even redder and she said, "Let's just finish this show already. I'm exhausted."

[StriaghtGarbage] Did Queen have a quickie with Alfi?
[FailureFox] Oho?!
[GoldenOrca] So why is Queen so exhausted, hm?

At the foot of the stage, a certain trash can, fox, and whale jumped and then three thought bubbles with faces flew towards the stage.

( ͡° ͜ʖ ͡°)

( ͡° ͜ʖ ͡°)

( ͡° ͜ʖ ͡°)

Aoko growled and ran over, swinging her leg in a roundhouse kick.

The bubbles popped, turning into blue flower petals. But Aoko wasn't satisfied and picked up some bouquets at the edge of the stage before chucking them at her three fans.

"You three! Need! TO STOP!"

The trio scattered, but not before sending more faces her way.

"Aaargh!"

Hana laughed at Aoko. But then she laced her hands behind her back and walked over to John. Tilting her head, she said, "Are we going to finish up then, Mister John?"

John smiled at Aoko's antics for a moment before turning his attention to Hana. When he did, he nodded and said, "We probably should... but this show is for you girls, so if you want it to last longer, we can go on for more."

Titor nodded. "Indeed! While a certain golden bastard stole the limelight as usual, this concert is for you idols and not us operators."

John snorted and said, "You're one to talk considering you opened by saying that the girls were 'your' idols."

Titor waved his hands and said, "Mere semantics."

"Again, I think you're using words you don't understand..."

Alfi walked over to John and then tugged on his shirt. "Papa?"

"Hm?" John looked over and said, "What is it, Alfi?"

Alfi shifted in place and said, "If it isn't too much of a problem... can I sing a duet with Aoko-chan before we finish?"

Hana's eyes widened and she clasped her hands together. "Oh! I'd love to hear that!"

Aoko growled at the three fans running away from her before walking back to Hana and the others. When she did, she looked at Alfi and said, "Did you guys call me?"

Alfi turned to Aoko and nodded. "Yes! Um... Would you sing a song with me, Aoko-chan?" She shifted in place and said, "After everything, we still haven't sung together yet... And it'll be more special if our first time is on stage, won't it?"

Aoko blushed.

John groaned and said, "Alfi. Phrasing."

"A-Ah." Alfi blinked and fiddled with her fingers. "I'm sorry. I didn't mean to be rude, Papa." She looked up at Aoko and said, "It's just... I want to make this a precious memory. So..." She held out her hand to Aoko and said, "Will you sing with me?"

John sighed and covered his face.

Titor laughed.

As for Aoko... She was turning a deep red, her blue eyes frantically looking between Alfi's hand and her eyes.

Hana shook her head and then poked Aoko in the ribs. "Aneue!"

Aoko flinched. After that, she shook her head and took Alfi's hand. "Geez, Alfi. You need to be careful. Talking like that is going to break a lot of people's hearts."

"R-Really?" Alfi's eyes widened and she said, "I'll be careful then. Um... I'm not sure why or how, but if Aoko-chan says so, I'll listen."

[BetaDragonQueen] No! My betty aoko ship!
[alfiaokoshipper101] All aboard the AlfixAoko express?
[icyiguana] Is it just me, or are all idols ambiguously gay?
[thinkingturtle] What even is this chat?

John shook his head and walked back over to his synthesizer. Sitting down, he played a few arpeggios and then looked over to Alfi. "What song did you have in mind, Alfi? And did you want me and Titor to play the backing track?"

Alfi nodded and said, "I'd like that, Papa."

"Aoko?"

Aoko sighed and said, "Might as well. You guys are already there."

Titor grinned. "Perfect. More opportunities to show off my virtuoso performances!"

John glanced over at Titor and said, "Hypocrite."

"And proudly so!"

John rolled his eyes.

Hana walked over to the side and pulled out a chair. After that, she grabbed a soda can from the floor and cracked it open. "Have fun Aneue, Onee-chan!"

Alfi smiled at Aoko and then walked her over to the mic stands.

Aoko's face was still red. But perhaps because she was conscious of everyone watching, she calmed down a bit, managing to keep a straight face. Still, as they headed over, Aoko muttered, "You're really different from Betty."

Alfi giggled and said, "That's because Betty is a bit dishonest with herself. But I'm sure that Betty likes you too."

"...Too?!"

Alfi giggled and let go of Aoko's hand when they reached the microphone stands.

Aoko shook her head and pulled a mic out.

Alfi did as well and then turned towards Aoko. "We haven't rehearsed this song, but since it's from an old Anime, I think Aoko-chan should know it well."

Aoko rolled her eyes and said, "You and your family sure like making me do unreasonable things, huh? But fine. I'll consider this payback for how mean I was to you when we met."

Alfi smiled and said, "Life truly has some strange turns, doesn't it?"

"Tell me about it."

Alfi turned to John and said, "I'll leave to Papa to start 'this illusion.'"

Titor laughed and gave a thumbs up.

John groaned and said, "Titor's being a bad influence... To think my cute daughter would start doing puns..."

Alfi giggled.

John shook his head and said, "Whatever. Now... let's start." He brushed his hands over the keys on his synthesizer and started playing.

An ethereal and muffled opening with light chimes and the sound of blowing wind.

With that, the stage faded away, leaving only Aoko and Alfi standing there. At the same time, a night sky with a pale blue moon emerged, leaving the pair standing in an endless field with blue shadows and light.

Alfi turned to Aoko, her expression soft and gentle.

Aoko looked embarrassed, but she nodded.

And then Alfi started to sing.

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