224 – Beta – Shopping, shipping.
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The Roppongi Hills mall, around 3 PM.

After the discussion at the office, Beta gathered everyone into her car and drove the group to the mall for a shopping trip to relax and unwind.

And now, after an hour or so of shopping, the group were walking around on the ground floor, strolling about.

Beta tucked a strand of her hair behind her ear and then looked around. Surprisingly, they weren't drawing attention for once.

Usually when Beta went outside of the office, she was the center of attention. Both men, women, children, and elderly alike stared at her when she passed.

That was part of the reason why she was happy that she had Emily around to help her run errands. Emily was cute and pretty, but she wasn't so beautiful that she drew unwanted attention and trouble.

Well, that and because Emily had a unique skill of managing to get out of trouble fairly easily when it did come up.

But today was unnecessary.

Beta watched a pair of young men walk past their group, completely engrossed with their phones.

One of the young men held out his phone and said, "Here, I'll show you again-"

The other brushed off his friend's arm and said, "I saw it already! And I told you, I don't care about Jenny!"

"But Jenny is best girl!"

"If you're into traps, yeah. Alfi is the real best girl though... And Aoko is the best idol."

"You take that back! Jenny is a goddess!"

"...You need to get a girlfriend, man."

"What?! It's true!"

The two young men walked into the distance, their voices fading as they passed by.

When they were out of earshot, Sakura moved over to Beta's left side. Tilting her head towards Beta, Sakura smiled and said, "It looks like your Dad pulled off a big hit."

Beta smiled back and said, "That is obvious. Anything that Father attempts tends to work out somehow in the end. Though..." She frowned and said, "I am a bit troubled by how he just showed off all of that technology without hinting at it beforehand..."

It was one thing to do a grand reveal at a scheduled event like how Beta planned with Ars Nova Productions and their adaptive story system. But to clearly show it off in what should have been a normal concert...

Emily walked up to Beta's right side. "Mistress's father did seem a bit careless... When I ran into him last time, he was staring off into space."

Beta tapped Emily's head and said, "You are the careless one." She glanced at Emily's dress shirt and then frowned when she saw the ruffled collar. Beta reached out to fix it and said, "How many times have I told you to be aware of your appearance? It will not do for someone so cute to appear so messy."

"Heehee..."

A long sigh echoed from behind the girls. After that, Ichiro's voice called out. "Are we done shopping yet? These bags are getting heavy..."

Beta finished fixing Emily's collar and looked over.

As the sole male in their group, somehow things ended up with Ichiro carrying their shopping bags. His beige coat was a bit crumpled from having to carry half a dozen bags in each arm, and said arms were also starting to tremble.

Sakura glanced back and waved her hand. "Oh stop complaining, Ichiro-kun. A gentleman like you should just stand there quietly and carry the bags for us ladies."

Beta laughed and said, "You should stop teasing Ichiro so much, Sakura. He works hard enough as it is."

Sakura nodded. "That's true... but he's so easy to tease!" She shifted her attention back to Ichiro and raised her finger. "Here's a tip from this auntie. You're the type of man to let women wrap you around their fingers, so if you start dating bring your girl to us first so we can vet her, alright?"

Ichiro sighed. "I can't deny that first part... But when did we get that close in the first place?"

Emily turned back to look at Ichiro as well and said, "Yeah! We can't let the only guy in our company get taken away by some hussy who's just going to stomp all over him."

"...Don't you do that already?"

Emily tilted her head. "I don't know what you're talking about. We treat you well. Don't we, Mistress?" She turned to look at Beta.

Beta smiled and then walked over to Ichiro. "Of course. After all, Ichiro has to put up with a lot from us... And allow me." She unpried the bags from Ichiro's right hand.

"Mistress!" Emily gasped and ran over. "Allow me!"

Ichiro frowned and tried to pull the bags back. "It's heavy, Miss Beta. So let... me?"

Beta casually swung the bags over her shoulder. "Hm?"

Ichiro blinked and then shook his head. "Miss Beta isn't just a supermodel but a superwoman, huh?" He sighed and then shifted his load, splitting the remaining bags up between his left and right hands.

Beta smiled and said, "I will not deny that... but we each have our own experiences. It would not be the first time I have had to carry heavy objects."

After all, she had to carry her father and his problems for most of her life. A few bags of shoes and dresses weren't a big deal.

Emily tried to grab the bags from Beta and said, "Please, Mistress, let me!"

Beta frowned and shifted the bags before poking Emily's forehead. "Do not be ridiculous. You will get crushed. And besides, I appreciate you enough just being here. There is no need to try and be useful all the time, Emily."

Emily's green eyes widened and she let out a bright smile. Lacing her fingers together, she shifted in place and giggled. "Mistress is happy with me..."

Ichiro gave Emily a blank look and said, "You're easy to please, aren't you?"

Emily didn't respond, still lost in her happy space.

Sakura hummed and looked between Beta and Emily. Placing a finger on her chin, Sakura said, "Now that I think about it..." She looked at Beta and said, "You never did explain why Emily calls you Mistress." She let out a sly smile and said, "Is there a little office love affair going on?"

That caught Emily's attention. She flinched and then suddenly turned a bright red.

Ichiro dropped a bag. His eyes widened and then he quickly picked it up. After that, he laughed and said, "That's ridiculous, Miss Sakura. Miss Beta isn't-"

"Ah." Beta interrupted and said, "That is because Emily is my bedwarmer."

Silence.

Emily turned an even deeper shade of red.

Sakura blinked and said, "P-Pardon? A bedwarmer? You mean... You mean like she makes your bed for you at night, right?"

Beta tilted her head. "No. I mean that she-"

"M-Mistress!" Emily placed her hands on her cheeks, as if trying to stop the warmth flooding her cheeks. Realizing that wasn't working, she started fanning them instead. "N-Not that I mind you talking about it in public, b-but... Uu~..."

Beta laughed and then patted Emily's head. "Fine, fine." She looked up at Sakura and said, "It is a complicated set of circumstances starting from when she rudely barged into my room one day, but right now Emily is my bedwarmer and personal pet."

Ichiro gasped and said, "P-Pet?!"

Sakura blinked again and then laughed. After that, she wrapped in arm around Beta's shoulders and poked her cheek. "You and your family keep coming up with new surprises, don't you?"

Beta smiled and said, "We are all complicated people... Though I could say the same for you, Sakura." She shifted her gaze to Sakura's arm and said, "I can see now where Rin gets all her energy."

Sakura leaned back and said, "I'm not nearly as spry or energetic as my Sweetie... But I'm happy that you think so, Betty." Sakura let out a bright smile.

Ichiro sighed and then grumbled. "Why do guys fantasize about being surrounded by beautiful women and having a harem? This is more of a nightmare than a dream... When was the last time I even had a day's rest?"

"Ah." Beta looked back at Ichiro and said, "That is true... Did you want some time off then?" She tilted her head and said, "I believe I recall Miss Chihiro mentioning that you didn't spend enough time grading their papers and got some answers wrong..."

Ichiro flinched and then let out a nervous laugh. "It's fine. I'm just venting by mumbling some nonsense."

Sakura giggled and then covered her mouth. "My. It seems that Little Ichi-kun can't handle all of these beauties."

"Stop that!"

Emily nodded and said, "Yes! Stop that, Miss Sakura! At this rate, your Mister Kai might get even more jealous!"

Sakura sighed and started rubbing her temple. "Please don't remind me about that guy..."

Beta took a look around. Seeing that they were starting to hold people up, she started walking forward. The others followed her.

After they were moving, Beta looked to Sakura and said, "Speaking about that person... have you decided to properly turn him down yet?"

"Yes- I mean, no. I mean... Hah. I don't know." Sakura frowned. "I like Kai. And I really liked him back when we were kids. But now... It's complicated. More than that, the guy still isn't acting like a proper father to Tsuki. Until he does, I can't accept him."

"But you are thinking about accepting him."

Sakura hesitated.

Emily sighed and said, "Why do people have to make things so complicated? If you like someone, just offer everything to them already."

Sakura rolled her eyes and said, "That's because I've had enough of being screwed and made to be submissive my entire life, thank you very much."

Emily blinked and tilted her head.

Ichiro flinched. "Miss Sakura-"

Sakura waved her hand. "Don't worry about it, Kiddo. That's between me, Kai, and your old man."

Ichiro frowned. "Even so... We should have done more to help you. Even if-"

"It's fine." Sakura cut him off and said, "More importantly..." She stared at him and said, "How are you doing on rent and food." She stuck her thumb back at Beta and said, "Unlike our boss who somehow lives on just pure sugar and caffeine, you're making sure to eat healthy, right?"

Ichiro nodded. "Things are fine. My landlord is making a bit of a fuss about me leaving the place empty all day, but it's no big deal. Since Miss Beta is paying me so well, I should be able to find a proper place if I save up a bit more from my teaching job too."

Beta frowned. "You know, if you are having issue, Ichiro, it is fine to tell us."

Emily nodded. "That's right! And especially tell me! If anyone is trying to mess with Mistress's people, well, I'm not going to let them off easy!"

Sakura stared at Emily and said, "You're really like Betty's pet dog, aren't you?"

Emily smiled and then barked. "Wan!"

Sakura laughed.

Ichiro laughed as well before turning to Beta. "Thanks. But like I said, it's fine. You've all done me a lot of favors just by letting me work with you... so as a man, I have to at least do this much for myself."

Emily frowned and then crossed her arms. "What do you mean, 'as a man?' What, do you think being a guy makes you have to be all tough and stuff?"

Beta poked Emily. "Relax." She looked over at Ichiro and said, "People are all different, and some men really value this thing called pride."

Unlike her father, who threw his to the wind when he learned those courtesan skills well enough to unintentionally seduce countless immortals on sight when he was masquerading as a woman.

Ichiro smiled. "Thanks, Miss Beta. I knew you would understand me."

Beta nodded. "A good leader understands their followers and supporters well."

At that time, Beta noticed two girls walking over from the side. One, a cool beauty with red rimmed glasses and black hair. The other, a blonde beauty with her hair tied in a pony tail... and both wearing uniforms.

"...And that includes supporting them when trouble arrives."

"Hm?" Ichiro tilted his head. "What do you-?"

"Sensei?"

"Aniki?!"

Ichiro paled.

Beta let out an amused smile.

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