245 – Winter Tokyo Electronics Expo – Day 1
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Meggie held up the plastic badge for the expo and frowned. "Do we really need to wear these, Dad?"

It was a flimsy piece of plastic with a paper card stuck inside of it. Super simple, with just the logo for the expo and the words 'VIP' printed on it. There were also some weird lines on the bottom and a string to wear it, but otherwise it looked... just like a throwaway item.

John put on his badge and shrugged. "For something this big, you've gotta skimp on money somewhere."

Meggie frowned, remembering all of the events that her dad put on in the past and then said, "But you never do that, Dad. Even the invitations you send out are usually priceless treasures."

"That's because your dad is stupid rich."

"Oh. Right." Meggie paused. "...Then why don't you just buy up the world already? Aren't there enough precious gems and items in your Heavenly Realm to conquer the world millions of times over?"

"Well, yeah. But where's the fun in that?"

"Mm, I guess..."

Meggie put on her badge and took a look around.

They checked into their room a few minutes ago and dropped off their suitcases. Now the plan was to head to the expo and wander around to find that Creature Hunter booth and grab some food.

John adjusted his tie and then checked his cuff links.

Meggie glanced over and snorted. "Golden dragons, Dad? Really?"

"Hey." John straightened and said, "You can't deny that it looks cool, right?"

"It looks tacky."

John slumped.

Meggie laughed and said, "Well, but so does everything else you wear, Dad."

"Oh!" John straightened and said, "So you're saying that everything looks tacky on your Dad because he's just too cool, right?"

Meggie rolled her eyes and stuck her hands in her sweater pocket. "Whatever, Dad. Let's just get going already."

"Alright, alright." John laughed and then walked over to place his arm around Meggie's shoulder.

She blushed but didn't push him away. "...Dummy."

John blinked and said, "You know. You're a lot like your mom, Meggie. Did you know that?"

"Hm? Really?"

John started walking out of the room, leading Meggie with him. As he did, he nodded and said, "Yeah. You wouldn't think it from how she is now, but your mom used to be pretty snippy with me."

Meggie laughed and said, "I bet. From what I hear, you used to be pretty wild when you were younger, Dad."

John started to sweat. "...From who exactly have you been hearing that from?"

"Oh, I dunno?" Meggie looked at John and said, "Who do you think I've been hearing it from?"

"...I wasn't that wild. At least not when I met your mother."

"Mm, if you say so."

"I do say so."

The father-daughter pair walked down the hall and into an elevator to head downstairs. As they did, a few people turned to stare, but most left them alone.

The elevator door closed behind them, and John pressed the button to head to the lobby. After that, he hummed and said, "Anyway, you and your mother..." John turned to look at Meggie and said, "Well, first of all you get all your looks from her."

"That's not true!" Meggie shook her head and said, "I have your nose, my bangs are like yours, um... and my ears and mouth are similar too!"

John blinked. And then he laughed.

Meggie huffed and said, "What's so funny?!"

"Sorry, Meggie." John patted her head and said, "I didn't expect you to care that much."

Meggie lowered her gaze and mumbled, "Of course I care. I'm Dad's kid too. "

John let out a gentle smile and said, "That you are."

"...You were saying something about Mom?"

"Well, other than her looks, your personality is pretty similar too. She's pretty dishonest about her feelings."

Meggie nodded. "Yeah. She really is- Wait a minute!" She huffed and said, "I am not like that!"

"Mm... if you say so, sweet daughter of mine."

Meggie huffed and jabbed John in the side.

"Ow!" John doubled over and rubbed his side. "Go easy on your old man, Meggie!"

"Hmph. First you're still young, now you say you're too old... Age sure is convenient for you, isn't it Dad?"

"Um... Be careful about how you phrase that, Meggie." John nervously looked up and said, "You shouldn't give anyone any ideas."

"Hm?" Meggie followed her father's gaze and said, "What are you looking at?"

"Don't worry about it." John let out a nervous chuckle. "Anyway... I'm glad that you take after your mom a lot, Meggie. To be honest, I don't know what I'd do if you took after me."

Meggie frowned. "And why's that?"

"Well for one, I'd have to be beating guys off with a stick- Ah wait. That's poor phrasing. I mean that I'd be fighting off guys left and right. Probably girls too." John frowned. "And that reminds me that your older sisters definitely got that bit from me. Thankfully, it's just girls, but I might need to keep an eye out for them..."

The elevator chimed and the doors opened. Immediately, a loud din filled the air. Chatter from other guests in the lobby checking in.

The moment that John and Meggie arrived though, it got quiet. Not only that, but everyone in the room turned to look at them.

Meggie instinctively flinched and ducked behind John.

John patted Meggie's shoulder and said, "Don't mind them, Meggie. Let's get going." Saying that, he walked forward, holding his arm around her and keeping her close.

Meggie didn't say anything in response, just sticking close to her father. As she did, she was reminded of the past.

She was younger then. Smaller and barely up to her father's waist.

There had been a gathering of Eternal Emperors to discuss some event or another, and Meggie had asked to go with him.

It had been scary. She thought they would just be ordinary people, but each person there had been terrifying. Each of them stared at her as if she was just a speck of dust. Insignificant.

But like now, her father simply held her close with a soft smile. He didn't say a word, but it was clear. That even if everyone there tried to attack her or brush her away, he would stop it. A towering father that could block out the entire sky for her.

That was back then. She was younger. Smaller. Weaker. And her father had been different too. More harsh. Sharper. Willing to cut down anyone who so dared to look at them wrong.

"Meggie?"

John's voice echoed.

Meggie blinked and realized that they were outside. At the same time, the towering father she remembered from back then was suddenly smaller.

No, she had gotten bigger.

Meggie was still shorter than her dad, but only by about a head. These days, she reached up to his chest. He was still tall, but not the towering giant she remembered.

Realizing that... made her a bit sad.

John frowned. "Is something wrong? Wait, did a pervert eye you up? Who is it? I'll take care of it right now."

Meggie laughed. "No, Dad. It's not that. I'm just... thinking."

"Thinking?"

"Mmhm. I was just thinking about how unlucky I was to have you as my father."

John's eyes widened. "Wait, what? That's- I mean... Yeah, I guess I've been a pretty bad one. But I've been trying to make up and... No, I suppose that I messed up pretty bad. But-"

Meggie laughed again and grabbed John's hand, tugging him along. "Don't be dumb. You've been a bad father... but I think you're an okay Dad. So don't make me change my mind about you again, alright?"

Yes. Her father... he was never that great of one. Never playing with her, always training. Spending more time with her mother than with her...

No, she couldn't blame that all on him. That place had been so focused on appearances that he couldn't afford to show any weaknesses. That towering father she knew... he wasn't 'fake', but he also wasn't the entire picture.

The one right now... her dad was silly. Goofy. He refused to use his powers unless absolutely necessary and let countless slights pass him instead of doing anything about it.

'Weak.' At least, according to what Meggie knew.

But...

Meggie looked up at her father- No, her dad. At the man who didn't spend his time on work or obligations now. At the one who threw everything to the side just to spend time with her this entire week. At the one who wanted to make sure she was happy and even did stupid embarrassing things by praising her at every turn.

John's eyes watered and then he sniffed.

Wait.

Meggie's ears turned red and she said, "W-What are you doing?! Are you crying? Really? Here?!"

John wiped his eyes and said, "I can't help it, you know? My cute daughter forgave me even though I've been such a bad father..."

"Argh. Dummy. Just... Let's go already. I want food. Don't embarrass me!" Meggie's face turned red and she started dragging John off.

He laughed and followed after her.

'...Stupid Dad. If you start crying, I'm going to cry too, you know?'

Meggie huffed and stomped towards the Creature Hunter exhibit.

She wasn't crying. She definitely wasn't crying.

Her eyes were just... a bit dry. That was all.

Definitely.

...Definitely.

-----AI|IA-----

A faithful replica of the hunter's canteen, complete with chefs in cat costumes preparing meals in a roaring open flame stone oven.

"Wow!" Meggie's eyes lit up as she looked around and said, "It's just like Creature Hunter: Ascent!"

John looked around, focusing for a while on the menu and said, "Tch. It's not that impressive. These aren't even real monsters anyway."

Meggie rolled her eyes and said, "It's the experience, Dad."

"And I could pull off a better one. As a chef too."

Meggie shook her head and grabbed her dad's hand. "Whatever, Dad. Just come help me order the special!"

"Fine, fine..." John dragged his feet, but he followed after Meggie.

There wasn't that long of a line... mostly because the meal was a whole feast and nobody around seemed willing to go through one of those just yet.

But that just meant that Meggie and her dad didn't have to wait long.

When they reached the counter, the chef waved a paw and said, "Hello, nya! What can I getcha, nya?"

"Cute!"

John blinked. "You think that's cute?!"

Meggie's ears turned red and she said, "Shut up, Dad!" She turned back to the chef and said, "Could we get the hunter's special?"

"No problem, nya! But..." The cat chef tilted... her? The voice sounded female, so it was probably a woman. Anyway, she tilted her head and said, "Can you finish it, nya?"

"Ah." John spoke up and said, "Make that two."

The chef froze and turned to look at John.

Meggie blinked and then glared at John. "Dad!"

"What? Were you planning on sharing?"

"Well, no. But-"

"So we'll make it two."

"A-Are you sure?" The chef looked at John and Meggie and said, "I-It's fine to share. This isn't a food challenge or anything. It's also pretty expensive... nya."

It seemed like the chef was so surprised that she broke character for a while.

"Yeah, Dad!" Meggie poked John in the side and said, "Stop making a scene!"

"But I'm hungry too, you know? Besides, I'm paying."

"Ugh... Fine." Meggie sighed and looked back at the chef. "Two specials please."

"...Okay, nya. That will be 20000 yen, nya."

John pulled out a black credit card from his suit pocket and handed it over. "There you go."

The chef numbly swiped the card and handed it back.

After that, Meggie shook her head and grabbed a table for the two of them.

John sat down across from Meggie and took a look around. "This is a bit cheesy... but it's pretty cool. Though..." He looked at Meggie and said, "Did you like this sort of thing, Meggie?"

Meggie's ears turned red and she said, "S-So what if I do? Creature Hunter is cool! And you get to make cool armor and weapons and fight giant monsters!"

"I know. I've played a few games like that myself back in the day. It was called something else, but it was basically the same thing." He frowned and said, "Never really liked it though. There's no leveling system or stats. All you do is just make stronger stuff and kill stronger things. You don't actually get stronger."

"Hmph. You just don't get it, Dad."

"Well, yeah. That's what I'm saying. If you go around killing that many giant monsters, it's unrealistic to not get stronger. Not only that, but external power only takes you so far."

Meggie rolled her eyes. "It's a game, Dad. Of course it's unrealistic."

John hummed. "...Maybe I should make one of my own then. I'm pretty sure I could make it better- Ah. Wait. That would make a bunch of those studios mad. Better to not rock the boat too much."

Meggie huffed and said, "Do you have to always try to one up things, Dad? Seriously."

John chuckled. "It's just another one of my bad habits."

"...Just how many of those do you have again?"

John sighed. "Too many. And that's part of the reason I love your mother so much. She really does rein me back quite a bit."

"Speaking of Mom... I don't think I ever heard how you met. Mom said it was love at first sight, but all of my aunts said it was complicated."

"Ah. That's a long story." John chuckled. "Pretty cliched too. Did you know that at the start-"

"Yoisho!"

A cowbell started ringing, and then a group of people in cat costumes started marching over, carrying two giant platters of food.

Roasted chicken, baked mackerals, giant meatballs, big loafs of bread...

John looked over and blinked. "Huh. That was pretty fast." He frowned and then said, "...Was it already cooked and just reheated? No, it's probably been cooked and just kept warm. Yeah, that would make more sense. And then-"

Meggie kicked her dad's shin.

"Ow!"

"Stop analyzing the food, Dad!"

"Sorry. Bad-"

"I will slap you."

"...Yep. Definitely take after your mom."

Meggie rolled her eyes.

The cat in the front, the same person who took their orders, looked at Meggie and John before saying, "Two specials, nya!" She gestured towards the other cats, and they placed the platters on the table. "Enjoy, nya! And come back to the counter when you're done for a souvenir, nya! And a picture!"

With that, the cats left, running back to the counter. But when they did, they stared at Meggie and John. And everyone around was staring as well.

John grabbed a napkin from the tray and picked up a fork and knife. After that, he looked over at Meggie and said, "Are you sure you can finish all of this, Meggie?"

"Hmph." Meggie picked up a meatball stick and said, "Are you challenging me, Dad?"

"No. But... Never mind." John shook his head and carved a piece from the chicken. "Now let's see how this tastes..."

Meanwhile, Meggie started chowing down. Chomping a meatball in a single bite. Tearing off a chicken leg...

As she did, Meggie realized something.

No wonder the hunters ate like that in the game! It was a ton of fun! Now, how fast could she eat everything...?

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