An empty stage. The crowd, long gone and the actors all vanished from the scene. Only a single light shone down from above.
There was a flicker, the light vanishing and plunging the stage into darkness for a split second. And then a man appeared.
Dark hair, brown eyes. Average height... slightly out of shape from spending so much time doing desk work recently and scanning through legal cases.
He pulled out his phone and then muttered, "It's been a year, huh? Time sure flies." The man... No, HappyVainGlory... or rather, 'Vain' turned to the side and said, "Don't you think so, John?"
The lights blinked again and then a man appeared off to the side, seated on a folding chair. A flawless face, soft emerald eyes, blonde hair set in bangs. He pushed himself up to his feet and then sighed, running a hand through his hair. "For you, maybe. Time sure seems to drag on for me. It's only been... what, a month? Not even?"
Vain coughed and said, "Yeah. Well... blame the fact that you do so many random things."
"*I* do so many random things?" John crossed his arms and said, "You're the guy who arranged all of this." He waved his arm around and said, "Wasn't this my story? How the heck did I get sidelined for a bunch of VTubers instead? Not that I mind. I mean, I'm glad the girls are having fun... but still!"
Vain shrugged. "Be happy that you're having a peaceful married life now."
"Yeah, and about that. Aren't you the dick responsible for all the bullshit that happened to me in the Three Realms?"
"...I made you meet Yue, didn't I?"
"And I am eternally grateful for that. But still!"
Vain coughed and said, "Be grateful you're not like your older brother, Gray. He's still stuck in another world after having the only person he could depend on die in front of him."
"I mean... You heard nothing. Anyway..." Vain held up his hands, causing a stack of index cards to appear. "We're not here for a comedy show. Well, I mean this entire story is a comedy, but today's special. We've got a bunch of fan letters addressed to various people you know... and to you. So I'm going to be pulling different people out and asking them questions."
John blinked. "...How are you even doing this? Aren't we both from Earth? I'm a transcendent, so I should be immune to all this BS. But I'm still here... Wait. Then does that mean that-"
"Breaking the fourth wall is *not* good for your mental health, John. Trust me on this one. You remember Deadpool, right?"
"...I'll just take your word for it." John sighed and then sat back down. He made himself comfortable and then waved his hand. "Well, go on. What questions do you have for me?"
"First off... Er." Vain tugged his collar and said, "You aren't going to try to kill me if I snag random members of your family for a bit to answer questions, right? And could you let them know it's going to happen?"
John frowned. "Do you have any for me and Yue? I can grab her first and send a message to the others while I'm at it."
"I'd appreciate that."
"Alright. Be back in a bit."
The light flickered, and then John was gone.
Vain sighed and said, "This is surreal. I'm usually either talking directly to the readers or I'm actually part of the story. Breaking the fourth wall like this is definitely a new experience."
Vain stretched and then said, "Well... While John's gone, I might as well chat for a bit. First of all..." Vain smiled and said, "Thanks. I know that this story's been a bit all over, but I'm happy that people have enjoyed it. I'm pretty sure that there's a good number of people who aren't here anymore that started reading from the beginning, but even then I'm grateful to have been able to be even a bit of help to get through the dark days."
Vain sighed and said, "2020 was rough and 2021 wasn't much better. A lot happened. I'm sure I don't need to go into detail. After all, events have been big enough that we've all felt it in some way or another. But I'll say that everyone reading the story, and especially people leaving comments have helped me out a lot. Especially during the first part of 2021."
Vain shook his head and said, "Because of everything going on, I couldn't really hang out in person with friends. Sure, we talked and all, but even then everyone was also busy with various things. And it wasn't the same. Gotta say, it was pretty lonely. But then I started writing this story." He laughed and said, "Because of it, I met John, his family, friends... and all of you guys. Seriously, I'm super grateful for all of that. ...Ah. But it looks like John's coming back soon. So we'll leave it there for now." He laughed and said, "Can't let things get too sappy."
The light flickered again and then John reappeared, holding Yue at his side.
Vain waved and said, "Hello! It's a pleasure to meet you in person, Yue. I'm Vain, and old friend of John's from his original world."
Yue narrowed her eyes. "So I heard that you're the one who arranged John leaving the Three Realms?"
"Hey!" Vain pointed at John and said, "Don't you try to pin this on me! You were the one who decided to leave!"
John cleared his throat. "Yeah, well..."
"Husband?" Yue turned to John and said, "Have you been lying to me?"
"...Only a little?"
"...Anyway." John turned to Vain and said, "You had some questions for us, right?"
Vain laughed. "Nice save... but yes." He looked at Yue and said, "Thanks for your time, Missus Smith." He paused and said, "God is that weird to see spelled out."
John blinked and said, "Wait. You can see words?"
"No! Wait. Can I? I mean, if I think about it, maybe... But wait. What? ...Urgh, my head hurts..."
Vain flipped through his cards. "Like I said earlier, thinking about the fourth wall is bad. Now... Some questions for the lovely couple. First, @SimpingForShiki wants to know who exactly wears the pants in the relationship."
Yue pointed to herself and said, "I do."
John pointed to Yue and said, "She does."
Vain blinked. "...I didn't expect that response."
John shrugged and said, "I mean, she takes mine off all the time, so-"
"HUSBAND!" Yue turned a deep red and swatted John's shoulder.
He laughed and said, "That's how you heard the question, wasn't it? That you wear our pants in our relationship?"
Yue blushed. "Y-Yes... But you did not have to bring up the context- Wait." She blinked and said, "Is that not what the question entails?"
Vain chuckled. "Not quite. It's basically asking who's in charge in the relationship."
"Ah." Yue huffed. "Why did that person have to word it in such a confusing manner?" She sighed. "But if that is the question, is it not obvious? My dear husband is the one. Whatever he decides, wherever he goes, I follow."
John frowned and said, "You know that you can speak up too on things, right, Yue?"
"Yes. But..." She blushed and then quietly said, "I have always wanted to rely on someone and merely support them from behind. A-And since Husband is so great, I am happy... I am the happiest when I can support you in your endeavors."
John froze and then scooped Yue up in a hug. "Why are you so *cute*, Wifey?!"
Yue giggled and then clung onto John, stealing a kiss from him.
John adjusted his grip around Yue and then kissed her back.
Vain gave the couple a blank stare and said, "...Could you not?"
John leaned back and said, "What? Jealous?"
"Not really. But I think our friends in the other place will be annoyed."
Yue blinked and said, "What other friends?" She paused and looked around. "Come to think of it... Where exactly are we? This does not seem to be Earth... No. It *is* Earth, but at the same time it is not? A similar setting, but..."
John set Yue down and said, "Best not to think about it too much, Yue. My 'friend' Vain here is essentially as powerful as I am. At least in this limited space."
Vain let out a nervous laugh. "And boy am I grateful for that."
"You should be. And you should hope that nothing happens to you when you're seeking out your 'Glorious Vanity.'"
"Stop breaking the fourth wall."
John coughed. "Right."
"Anyway..." Vain flipped through the cards and said, "Hm... @GreenHexagon wants to know how long you guys were in the Three Realms."
Yue blinked. "I cannot speak for anyone else... but I have been alive for a few eons now."
John laughed and said, "Yue's just being coy with her age. If we put it into numbers, she's actually one quadrillion to the-"
"HUSBAND!" Yue blushed and said, "No!"
John laughed. "Fine, fine."
Vain raised an eyebrow. "I thought you said John was the one in charge, Yue?"
She averted her gaze and said, "This is different! You cannot go around revealing a woman's age! Especially one as youthful as I am! People will misunderstand!"
John tilted his head. "...I don't think there's anything to misunderstand though? It just means my wife is a timeless adorable beauty, isn't it?"
"Wha- H-Husband!" Yue blushed and then poked John's arm. "...This is not the place for that..."
John chuckled and then turned towards Vain. "Anyway... to answer Mister Green Hexagon, it's long enough to where trying to count it would be pointless. You can attach the largest number you can think of and it would probably fall short. Especially since most of that time was spent behind closed door cultivation trying to break through."
Vain nodded. "And there you have it. Next... @Gawra51 has quite a few questions. For a bunch of different people as well..." He pulled out his phone to check the time and said, "I've only got about an hour left with you guys before I have to end this, so I'll just ask the ones about you and Yue first. We'll start with Yue." He looked up and said, "Any name ideas for the baby or potential babies yet? Boy or girl?"
Yue blushed. "N-Names?" She shifted and looked at John. "W-Well... I was hoping that Husband would name our child..."
John winced. "Come on, Yue. We talked about this. I suck at naming. I mean, think of the company I run. And the name for the girls' group."
Yue poked her fingers together and said, "But I think your naming is cute..."
John blinked and then his ears turned red. "E-Even so..."
Vain sighed. "What a hopeless couple..."
John glared at Vain.
He coughed. "A-Anyway... Are you sure you don't have any name ideas, Yue? They don't have to be final... Or to put it in other terms, are there any names you like in general?"
"Oh. Well..." Yue hummed and said, "For boy names I'm rather fond of the name Heaven. And Sky. Fate is a good name as well. Oh! And First Son."
John gave Vain a long suffering look.
Vain bit his cheeks.
Yue didn't notice and continued talking. "For girls... I think softer names are prettier. Something like Snow, Winter, Rose... Maybe Light?"
John coughed and said, "It sounds better in Chinese, promise."
"Right... Though this is pretty convenient."
John blinked. "Why's that?"
Vain laughed and said, "Won't people really think Yue is a chuuni if she starts spouting those names as potential names for your new kid?"
Yue puffed her cheeks and said, "What is wrong with the names I suggested?!"
Vain waved his hand. "Nothing, Missus Smith. Only that the meaning seems to be lost in translation."
"Ah." Yue frowned. "I had forgotten... We cannot communicate directly with thoughts in this world..." She pursed her lips. "I may have to think more on this..."
"Well, let's move onto John's questions then." Vain turned to John and said, "First off... can you count the number of times the women in your life have tried to kill you?"
An immediate response.
Vain blinked and then started to sweat. "...You lived a rough life over there, huh?"
"Gee, I wonder why?"
Vain cleared his throat.
Yue smiled and said, "Don't worry Mister Vain. I made sure *those* women were put in place."
"...Aren't you included in that-"
Yue's smile turned sharp.
Vain cleared his throat. "A-Anyway... Next. Were there ever any plans for a 'Gamma', 'Delta', and so on when you were making your daughters, John?"
Yue blinked and then turned to John, tilting her head in thought. "That is a good question... Why was it that Alphy and Betty never had any siblings until Meggie, Husband?"
John coughed. "W-Well... If I'm being honest, I originally got the inspiration off of Overlord. And I *did* plan a whole set originally... but after making Alphy, I couldn't just do that." He let out a soft smile and said, "She was family. The only one who I could really rely on and trust. Even if she wasn't real at first... she was still my creation. And my daughter."
"...You do know that just makes you sound insane, right, John?"
"Well." John narrowed his eyes. "Considering the crapsack world I was tossed into, I'm surprised that I'm sane at all right now."
Vain cleared his throat. "Moving along... Using the VS Battles Wiki Tiering System, how would you rate yourself overall? Or is it too variable to give a definite tier?"
"Hm?" John placed his hand on his chin to think. "VS Battles Wiki... Oh. That weird ranking system that goes into metaphysical dimensions and stuff?"
"That thing, yes."
John shook his head. "It doesn't matter. *Apparently* our reality is severed at an axiomatic level that denies anything beyond an Extradimensional level. And because the world that you and I are supposedly from... and the one that I can't return to now, is a hard wall that can't be reached because it exists in a concrete level compared to the abstract level that those extra dimensional beings would fail to perceive."
Yue blinked. "...Pardon?"
Vain waved his hand. "Don't worry about it."
John laughed. "Like Vain said, don't worry about it. The only bastard that's the equivalent of omnipotent here is that guy, and anyone else who tries otherwise gets forced into a mortal body."
"Damned straight. Now the last question..." Vain flipped through his cards and said, "Favorite Oshi from Holol*ve before you got isekai'd?"
"The shooting star diamond in the rough." John looked off in the distance with a nostalgic smile and said, "It was a great day when she finally succeeded in her auditions."
Yue narrowed her eyes and then poked John in the ribs.
Yue pouted and said, "You only need a moon, okay? No shooting stars."
John laughed. "Don't worry." He hugged her and said, "You're already my world, stars, and everything in existence, Yue."
Vain gave the couple a blank stare and then tossed his cards to the side. "Alright. That's all the questions for you two... Now." Vain dug in his suit and then handed John a letter. "Could you look through these questions and discreetly ask the people for answers?"
John frowned and scanned the letter. After that, he sighed and said, "Toby will be easy, but the other two... Titor is going to-"
A flicker. Suddenly, a man with slicked back black hair and a white lab coat showed up. "No need!"
Titor grinned and spun around. "Vain! After all this time... And after changing world lines so many times... Finally, I have broken beyond the 1% barrier to meet you again! And to answer that question... Yes! I am maddo scientist! It is so cool! Sunnuva-"
Vain swept his hand and said, "You've been toeing the line too much mister. Get outta here."
The light flickered again and Titor vanished. Even so, his voice lingered. "Noooo! But I am Mad-"
Yue blinked and looked at John. "...Did you really act like that in the past, Husband?"
John cleared his throat. "I-I was better."
Vain smirked and said, "But your memories are faded with time. Mine are crystal clear and fresh."
John froze. Then he pointed at Vain and said, "No. Don't you *dare* rewrite history like that. I'll find you. I will."
Vain laughed. "Anyway... Enjoy your evening, you two. And get back to your presentation, John. I bought you some time to scramble and figure out a way to make Titor's transition work when you weren't planning to reveal the girls yet, so you should make the most of it."
John groaned. "I freaking forgot that. Bastard... I need to have a chat with him when we're back..."
Yue blinked. "Is that all, Mister Vain?"
Vain nodded. "That's all, Missus Smith." He smiled and said, "Thank you for your time."
She bowed her head. "Thank you for having us. And for being Husband's friend." She raised her head and said, "He doesn't have many male ones... and since this world of his isn't the same as the one he came from, it is good that he can at least have one to reminisce with."
Vain smiled. "You're welcome. I hope that we'll be friends and know each other in the years to come. Now... I'll send you off. That fine, John?"
John rubbed his head. "Please. I need all the brainpower I can get to figure a way out of this mess."
"Great. Then... Take care. I love you guys a lot and you've made my past year the best it could be. Good luck with the new baby around Christmas."
Yue's eyes widened.
John froze. "Wait! What the fu-"
And then they were gone.
Vain chuckled and said, "Don't worry. They'll forget that last bit. Though the other part of this little affair should stick around. Changing world lines only works so many times against these guys, you know?" He winked and then stretched.
"Well..." Vain pulled out his phone and said, "It's 8 PM here now. And this has gone on longer than I thought." He frowned and said, "Tomorrow's chapter might be delayed because of it... Hah. That's another thing too. Updating on a schedule like this is hard... I'm getting better at fitting it into my new schedule, but I'm starting to sweat thinking about the future. We might have to go down to five a week... Well. That's then, and this is now."
Vain smiled and waved. "Thanks again everyone. To all the people who I met in the past through John and his family. To all the people still here from that time. To all the people who joined in midway. To all the people yet to come... And to all the people who vanished since then." He bowed and said, "I'm forever grateful. Thank you for giving this story a chance. I hope it managed to bring a tiny spark of joy into your life as you did mine."
He straightened and said, "Now. It's getting late and I've got a lot to do. People usually plug themselves at the end of this sort of thing, but you guys know me by now. I'm not really that type of person." He laughed and said, "Hell, my username is HappyVainGlory. I'm happy just being able to proudly say that I wrote something and that people read it. So instead... I'll just wish you well."
Vain saluted and then turned around. "Take care everyone! I'll see you... maybe not tomorrow, but soon. May the new year treat you well, and here's to more in the future." He held up his hand to wave.
The light flickered.
And then the stage was empty once more.
At least, of people.
But on the floor, a piece of paper remained.
And on that paper, there were two questions, along with some answers.
To the Jade Emperor: What are your thoughts on grandchildren?
Response: Hmph. If I could, I would want nothing to do with that scoundrel, so the thought of grandchildren never comes to mind. ...Or so I would have said before recent events. Now... Now this old man needs to apologize to his granddaughter, Omega. And while it will take some getting used to... This old man will need to make amends with Alpha and Beta as well.
As to the upcoming grandchild that will be born shortly...
Well. I have been informed by a certain individual of the exact delivery date and will be taking a sojourn in this 'Earth' to be present for my daughter and her family.
To Toby: Do you have an Oshi from among the girls?
Response: I support them all equally, but since Aoko is the one streaming when I am finished with my work, she is the one I usually watch. My friend Alex enjoys watching her as well, so we typically chat together while she streams to catch up.
The light flickered once more, the bulb inside emitting a faint buzz.
Then there was a flash and a soft 'crack.'
And then everything returned to darkness once more.
...No. Not quite darkness.
Faint lights from the aisles gently illuminated the seats. And they showed that the once empty seats were occupied once more.
The silence that hung in the air with the absence of Vain, John, and Yue was broken now by a low murmur from an excited crowd.
And in the back of the stage, some faint shuffling could be heard as someone paced back and forth.
A deep sigh echoed, and then a low voice muttered. "Guess I'm winging it. Freaking Titor. And freaking Qing. How could you forget to put the debut videos on the laptop? Streaming them takes too long in this crappy wi-fi!"
Silence- No, a low murmur slowly growing louder as the crowd got impatient.
Realizing that, footsteps echoed once more and a man walked onto the stage. John.
It was still dark, so no one noticed.
"...Here goes nothing." John muttered and said, "Hope no one notices that I finesse some things with my powers... Need to definitely have a staff meeting after this. But anyway..."
John clapped his hands. And when he did, the dark stage lit up, revealing him standing in the middle. Smiling, John waved and said, "Hello everyone! Sorry about the technical difficulties there..."