223 – Beta – Preparations complete.
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Beta smiled and set down her tablet on the desk in front of her. Shaking her head, she said, "It seems like everyone is having fun."

It was wonderful. Well, the performance had been a bit extravagant and over the top with the technology shown... It seemed like her father's bad habit of not holding back was being put on full display. But even while it was over the top, it was extremely enjoyable.

First, seeing her father mess around again with those Courtesan techniques he stole from the Jade Pavilion and improved to teach Aunt Zhaojun was as funny as always. Especially seeing how everyone reacted to the reveal.

Beta could already envision the memes and clips flying across the web as a result of that... More infamy to her father's name after his own personal concert.

Second, Beta enjoyed seeing how happy her older sister had been in the performance. Watching her clumsy older sister bright and smiling while singing to a crowd of people cheering her on, seeing her so genuinely appreciative and glad... It was something that Beta didn't ever imagine could occur, but it was also something that Beta couldn't help but treasure.

And then third and last, there were Rin and Asako's performances. Rin had been as emotional as expected, but Asako's...

Beta giggled and said, "I told you that you would make a great idol, Asako."

To think that the most idol-like performance in the concert belonged to the one who doubted her ability as an idol the most... Life truly took strange turns.

Beta smiled and then took a look around.

It was her office in Ars Nova Production's HQ.

Well, she called it an HQ, but it was more like a tiny apartment with a spare room that she turned into an office.

A desk, an office chair, a window overlooking the snowy streets below, and then scattered papers and notebooks from all of their planning... other than that, the place was barren.

Usually, it was a lot livelier. But at the moment, everyone else from Ars Nova Productions had left the office to run errands.

Her cute Emily had left to grab Beta some more coffee and sweets from Starbox since they were running low. As for Sakura and Ichiro, since Sakura was hungry, she dragged Ichiro off to grab lunch, planning to use the young man to fend off unwanted attention.

Beta didn't blame her. Rin's mother *was* a top class beauty, even after having Rin and being sick. And that was especially true since Rin was able to take care of herself now. Rarely a day passed where Sakura wasn't smiling in the office.

Beta *did* pity Ichiro though. Since the guy could make a living off his face alone, she was sure that he caught all sorts of trouble when out with Sakura. Which was the point, but considering how frazzled Ichiro had looked the last time Sakura used him as a shield to fend off Kai...

But that was his fault for not committing with Asako when he had the chance. If he had a girlfriend, Sakura wouldn't be able to use him as a front.

Not that Beta would let him have a second chance at Asako though. Oh no. That cute and tsundere Asako was hers, and she definitely wasn't sharing. Especially not when she had just started chipping away at her guard with their training sessions.

Beta paused, realizing she had a wicked smile on her face. She quickly relaxed her expression and then opened her laptop to check the upcoming events.

Project MirAis had a lot of things in store. Her Father would be very busy coming up... which was a bit sad. It had been a while since Beta managed to spend time with him, but considering that Mother was pregnant and that Beta had already spent a lot of time on Earth with Father, it was enough for her.

Besides, she was used to being independent. That was necessary considering that she had to clean up a lot of her father's messes. But now that she didn't have to, Beta could enjoy herself and work on personal projects instead of worrying about needing to help out her father.

Not that Beta minded. After all, she was happy when people relied on her. But it was still nice to be able to experiment and try new things with new people.

Anyway, her calendar.

"Hm..." Beta leaned back in her chair and rapped her fingers along the armrest. "Comiket is first, and then the electronics expo. Ichiro managed to finish the animations and Sakura finished the demo arc scenario. The adaptive story system is complete as well, and the demo is ready to ship along with the eternity code encryption to prevent reverse engineering..." Beta paused and said, "...It seems like we're done for now?"

There was still a ways to go in order to finish the game, but it wasn't something they had to rush anymore, like the blur of activity in these past few weeks.

Fortunately, Beta was used to scrambling and solving issues under time pressure as well as managing other people to do the same. But now that everything was finished...

"Should I pay everyone a visit?"

Beta reached up and tapped her chin.

It had been some time since she spent time with her family members... or with her new friends. With the latter, it was because they had all been so busy, and with the former it was because Beta didn't want to intrude when things were going well for Father and Mother.

Though considering that all of her aunts had come over from the Three Realms, that Little Xuan and Little Wu were here, and that Miss Zhuque's reincarnation was joining Project MirAIs, perhaps that wasn't such a big deal...

Either way, Beta wasn't busy anymore. Ars Nova Productions had finished their preparations, and now all that was left was to go through the motions and see how things went.

Beta crossed her legs and then fiddled her shoes, kicking one off and balancing it on her toes. Resting her head against her left hand, Beta leaned back and stared off into space, lost in thought.

Eldest Sister was enjoying herself and had made some good friends. It seemed like she also might be getting some more than friends, judging from how she reacted around Rin and Asako as well as how they acted back... Though that was still only a possibility considering that Eldest Sister still didn't truly understand the concept of love.

It would be fun teasing her about it in the future though. Especially Asako when they had their next checkup.

Father seemed to be more relaxed again as well. But was it because Mother was around? Unlike the beginning where he seemed to be tossing all the work to the side, he was doing a proper job of things... Though that might be due to getting help from the Azure Dragon and the White Tiger as his subordinates.

And speaking of those two, it seemed that they had found some women since starting their duties. And those two had been fairly pleasant from what Beta saw last time.

But anyway, Mother was likely due soon for the new addition to their family... Beta estimated perhaps a month or two left from how far along she seemed. And Mother had calmed down as well, relaxing and becoming sweet instead of harsh and cold as she had been in the past.

...Beta still found it a bit strange considering how distant she had been to her and Eldest Sister before, but Beta wouldn't begrudge her.

The Three Realms had been harsh for everyone.

But in any case, love was in the air and things were going well. A peaceful and warm atmosphere that Beta had secretly wished for... and a wish that was finally granted.

Beta smiled, enjoying the soft warmth in her heart.

And then the door opened.

Beta paused, but when she sensed the person there, she only widened her smile.

"Mistress!" A bright and cheery voice echoed. Emily Nova... Beta's assistant and the one who ran the company on paper. "I'm back! I got you the caramel frappes and donuts you wanted!"

The door opened and a young woman walked in. Copper-red hair, light green eyes with a soft dusting of freckles beneath them. A faint blush spread on her face as she stared at Beta. Emily let out a shy smile and then walked in, carrying a bag from Starbox along with a tray of drinks.

"Did you have any troubles, Emily?"

"Nope!" Emily placed the bag on the table and moved the tray of drinks over. "This time I made it back safe and sound without going anywhere weird!"

Beta sighed and grabbed a coffee cup. "And this is why I worry about you. Sleep is important. I understand that you want to help me, but it will not do if you collapse in doing so."

Emily blushed and said, "I-If that's what Mistress wants!"

Beta shook her head.

It seemed like she wouldn't be getting through to Emily any time soon... though that might be her fault with the training they did after her surprise visit...

Beta sipped her coffee and then picked her tablet back up.

The live stream was over now, ending on a close up of 'Jenny' Smith smiling while fading away into golden light.

It seemed like father still couldn't get over being the center of attention. That, or his bad habits of stealing the limelight were coming back.

A door opened in the distance, followed by a woman's laughter.

"You're too shy, Ichiro-kun."

"I'm not! You're just too flirty. Could you not have just told Mister Kai to go away instead of using me as a prop?"

"Yeah, but that guy's clingy. And he still hasn't had that talk with John."

The door to Beta's office opened again, revealing Sakura and Ichiro.

Ichiro ran a hand through his curled brown hair and let out a sigh. "Honestly... I pity the man who ends up with you, Miss Sakura."

Sakura laughed and then looked over at Beta. She glanced at the bag of donuts and coffee and then frowned. "It's no good to keep eating junk food, Betty. Even if you look that pretty, eating like that is going to get to you eventually?"

Beta rummaged around in the Starbox bag and pulled out a powder donut. She took a bite, letting the sugar dust her black blouse and then shrugged. "Sugars are the most efficient source of energy."

Emily turned around and quickly nodded. "What Mistress said!"

Sakura sighed and then said, "I need to buy us some groceries then." She frowned and said, "Don't want John blaming me for his daughter getting sick from overwork."

Ichiro took off his coat and said, "Are you one to talk, Miss Sakura? Haven't you just recently recovered from cancer treatment just under a month ago?"

Sakura waved her hand and said, "It'll take more than just a bit of overwork to knock me down. I've endured and dealt with all sorts of crap and crappy people. Pulling a bit of overtime on something fun like this is a piece of cake."

Ichiro grumbled and said, "You mean like how you're Christmas-"

"Finish that and I'll show you why Kai is scared of me, Kid."

"Y-Yes, Ma'am!"

Beta smiled and then stood up.

"Mistress?" Emily tilted her head and said, "Is something wrong?"

"No." She shook her head and said, "Nothing is wrong. But... I think it is about time we go out to celebrate." She looked around at her team.

Emily Nova, the ordinary and cute young woman who mysteriously showed up in her life and who gave her everything to Beta. A mysterious visitor from another time and place that happened to arrive and occasionally popped into different places if Beta didn't keep an eye on her.

Sakura Hibana, a beautiful woman who had a rough life and was now able to enjoy herself after her daughter found her own path.

And then there was Ichiro Torabu, an awkward handsome young man who was the heir to the Torabu yakuza clan but ran around learning all sorts of random skills to avoid his responsibilities... responsibilities that were now moot because that world had collapsed.

A motley group of people. But it was her motley group of people. Her friends and team working together on a shared dream and ambition.

Beta smiled and said, "Let's go shopping."

Ichiro blinked. "Shopping?"

Emily gasped and nodded. "Shopping!"

Sakura tilted her head and said, "'Let's'...? Not 'let us?'"

"Well." Beta chuckled and said, "If you want some lettuce, we can grab some on the way back. Now let's go. I think we have spent more than enough time in this office for the past few weeks... And I think we should also get some presents to celebrate Project MirAI's first successful concert, don't you think?"

Ichiro groaned. "...I'm going to be the one carrying the bags, aren't I?"

Emily smiled. "Good boy! You've learned well!"

"...Are you bipolar or something? I swear, sometimes..."

Beta laughed.

:sweat: Trending again, huh? Um... bit busy to write anything extra, but I did have a neat commission.

Here, have a gander at Ars Nova Production boss Betty. Again, by Dovinder