Seeing the two teenaged girls staring at Ichiro with shocked expressions, Beta couldn't help but smile.
It was just such a cliched manga and Anime moment. A guy getting caught hanging out with three beauties while out on a stroll, misunderstandings unfolding because of it...
But while it was amusing, it was also something that would be rude to let persist, especially after Ichiro had put in so much hard work for Beta's project. So, before things went too far, Beta nodded her head and said, "It is a pleasure to meet you... or rather, meet you again."
Yuri blinked and then looked over at Beta. "Wait. You're... Alphy's older sister, right?" She paused and then shook her head. "No, never mind that!" She pointed at Ichiro and said, "What are you doing with her? And with her too?" She pointed at Sakura and said, "Are you flirting around? Being shameless?"
Chihiro tucked a strand of her black hair behind her ear and then adjusted her red-framed glasses, looking down on Ichiro. "Yes, Sensei. Is the reason why our homework has been delayed because you've been spending your free time with women? I thought you were poor, but it seems you have enough money to buy gifts..."
Ichiro shook his head. "T-That's..." He shifted his gaze to Beta, his eyes frantic.
Beta stepped forward and placed a hand on Ichiro's shoulder. "As much as I enjoy watching a misunderstanding unfold... Well, at least when it does not involve my father."
Those always tended to blow up in everyone's faces, just like the recent events.
"...In any case, Ichiro is our co-worker and at the moment, he is simply helping us delicate ladies carry our luggage."
Ichiro quickly nodded. "That's right! I'm just helping the ladies carry their bags. See!" To emphasize, he held up the bags in his hands.
Yuri pursed her lips, still doubtful. She glanced over at Beta and Sakura before looking at Ichiro. "Co-worker, huh? Are you sure you aren't being taken advantage of, Aniki? You've been led around the nose by women before... Are you sure that isn't the case here?"
Ichiro let out a nervous laugh.
Sakura chuckled and said, "It seems like our resident artist has a troubled history with women, huh?"
Beta shook her head and said, "You should stop teasing him, Sakura." She shifted her gaze back to Yuri and said, "Rest assured, your Aniki is a valuable member of our company. Particularly during outings such as these. As you might imagine, it can be... troublesome for a group of beautiful women to go around by themselves without at least a token male presence."
Ichiro sighed. "That's all I am now, huh?"
Emily smiled and said, "It's about time you learned your place, Ichiro."
Beta poked Emily's forehead and said, "You will cause a misunderstanding. Stop that."
"Okay! If that's what Mistress wants!"
Yuri blinked. "Mistress? Token male presence?"
At that time, murmurings echoed from around the group. Since they had been standing for a while, a crowd was starting to form, watching them.
Beta noticed and then gestured towards an empty table nearby. "How about we sit down to relax and chat? We seem to be causing a bit of a disturbance standing around like this."
Sakura glanced around and then narrowed her eyes. Crossing her arms, she said, "Some people should just mind their own business."
Beta smiled. "True. But better to let things be than cause too many waves." She shifted her gaze back to Yuri and Chihiro. "What do you say?"
Yuri pursed her lips and looked at Chihiro.
Chihiro hummed and said, "That's fine. Yuri and I were out to relax anyway and Shu-Senpai is busy working."
Beta nodded. "Wonderful. Then I will get us some refreshments with Emily. In the meantime..." She looked at Sakura and said, "Could you keep Ichiro and the girls company?"
Ichiro's eyes widened and he pointed at Sakura. "Why her?!"
Sakura shrugged. "If you want. I don't mind babysitting for a bit."
Beta nodded. "That would be nice." Shifting her gaze to Ichiro, she said, "And I am fine leaving you here with Emily. But only if you are fine explaining that you are not a dangerous individual or a JK-lover to potential patrolling officers."
"What do you-" Ichiro paused and then turned to look at Chihiro and Yuri. Then he looked at Emily and then sighed. "Right. I guess that would be a problem, huh?"
"Not a crime, but probably something to be avoided, no?" Beta smiled and then waved. "Try to not cause trouble while I am away. Emily?"
"Coming, Mistress!" Emily moved to Beta's right side.
After that, Beta walked off, heading towards the closest Starbox with Emily.
As Beta left with Emily, she heard Ichiro groan and mutter, "Why is my life like this?"
Sakura snorted and said, "You really shouldn't complain. I know at least one other guy who has it worse."
Beta smiled and then shifted her attention away to her surroundings.
The crowd was starting to disperse now, but Beta noticed a few people still staring at her and Emily. Mostly men, though she noticed a few women staring at her as well.
Emily noticed and then grabbed Beta's hand, moving close to her side.
Beta laughed and said, "You do not need to try and protect me, Emily."
Emily paused and then stepped away. "Sorry, Mistress. But seeing other people look at you like that..." She turned to the people staring and glared at them.
Beta placed a hand on Emily's head and said, "Calm down. While a bit of a hassle, this is normal. After all, it cannot be helped that I am such a beauty nor that you are so adorable, can it?"
Emily let out a happy smile and leaned into Beta's hand.
She smiled back and then patted Emily's head one more time before pulling her hand back. After that, she continued walking. Looking around the mall, Beta said, "Besides. Regardless of the attention, it is nice to get out of the office every now and then and do something ordinary."
"Mmhm!" Emily nodded and said, "I'm really happy to be able to walk with Mistress like this!"
"It *is* nice." Beta looked at Emily and said, "And to think that such a pleasant stroll is only possible because you randomly appeared in my bedroom while I was changing." She giggled and said, "Life truly takes some strange turns."
Emily flinched and lowered her head. "I'm still sorry about that, Mistress. I didn't mean to..."
Beta wrapped her arm over Emily's shoulders and pulled her in close. "Worry not. It was startling... and I almost overreacted in getting rid of you, but now I have a cute companion and assistant to help me with my projects." She paused and said, "Though it is odd. We still have yet to figure out how you fell through the dimensional cracks... Not to mention the fact that I should be exempt from these strange karmic events..."
Beta could understand something like that happening to Alphy or her father, but for Emily to pop in out of the blue... and for Emily to be an ordinary young woman but with an unstable presence that kept vanishing when no one was watching her...
It was odd.
...She blamed her father. Beta wasn't sure how or why strange things were happening, but she could be sure that it was his fault. Though for once it seemed like it was happening to people around her father rather than to her father himself.
Emily smiled and said, "I don't understand a single thing you said, Mistress, but I'm happy that I can help!"
Beta frowned. "Are you certain that you are happy though, Emily? I know you enjoy spending time with me and helping me experiment, but I am not sure your behavior is normal... Are you sure that nothing went wrong in your arrival?"
"Don't worry, Mistress! I've always wanted to be dominated by a smart, sexy, and sweet beauty like you!"
Beta blinked and then sighed. "Well... I suppose that explains quite a bit."
"In any case..." Beta looked forward at the nearby Starbox entrance. "Shall we get some refreshments for our friends?"
Emily took the lead and said, "Leave it to me, Mistress!"
Before Beta could respond, Emily dashed into the store.
Beta giggled and shook her head. "She really is like a cute puppy..." Beta smiled and then walked in after Emily.
The store was mostly empty. There was a single worker at the counter, a tomboyish girl with short black hair, but other than her, there was only a businessman that appeared to be in his late twenties. A shopping bag lay at his feet, with the box of what looked to be a VR headset peeking out from it.
Beta also sensed something a bit odd about him. Almost like he didn't quite belong. But just as quickly as she sensed that, it vanished.
Before she could dwell on it, a news report came on the nearby TV.
"What's poppin? Poppy Gloria here with the latest updates from the most reliable news source! And as for today's breaking news... Project MirAIs just finished their first mind-blowing concert!"
"Hm?" Beta tilted her head and then leaned against the wall, staring at the TV.