"I'm sorry." Chihiro bowed her head and muttered, "It was my bad."
John let out a deep sigh and ran his hand through his hair. "I won't say that it's fine because it definitely wasn't." He glanced at the other girls and then shook his head.
Yuri was pissed. Standing with her arms crossed, she looked like she was physically holding herself back from throttling Chihiro again.
Shu wasn't quite as mad. But she was staring at Chihiro with a disappointed look on her face. Like a big sister staring at a younger sister for messing up.
Suzume was there as well. She didn't look mad or annoyed. But she kept shivering and rubbing her arms out of disgust.
Back in reality at the streaming studio. Titor and Amadeus had left beforehand... Mostly because Amadeus wanted making her way through the recommendations that John gave her.
Titor was stuck with it and probably would be subjected to terrible things due to Amadeus's warped standards, but that was on him.
Still. There was still another problem even after the girls were back.
John looked back at Chihiro and said, "I gave you a pass because you're Takashi's daughter and because you're talented. But I'm starting to think that we should have been a bit more strict since it seems like you aren't taking this seriously."
Chihiro lowered her head and said, "A-Are you going to fire me?"
"Of course not." John shook his head and said, "You're a kid. I expect you to make a mistake."
Yuri looked vindicated.
And seeing that, John sighed again, scratching his head. "Maybe we were a bit too rushed in debuting you four. Things went well with Alphy, Asako, and Rin, so I thought it'd be fine like this too, but..."
A big oversight.
Asako and Alphy were adults already, and both were used to lots of attention. Asako because she was a yakuza princess and Alphy because she was John's daughter. They also knew when things were serious and to not push things.
As for Rin... Well, she was special. Because of her life, she was used to adversity. And because John saved her at the lowest point in her life, she was filled with boundless optimism and joy despite being the youngest.
But that wasn't true for the girls in Prodigy.
All of them were still high schoolers. While Shu and Yuri were the oldest, they lacked life experience. That was especially true for Suzume, who lived in a mountain up until now as a shrine maiden. And Chihiro... she had seemed well adjusted in how she interacted with others. But there was clearly something brewing in the background that John had overlooked.
Takashi had mentioned how Chihiro was a bit distant and spent most of her time at home or in her room.
Considering John's past, he should've picked up on it. Especially after her first stream when she doubled down into memes and 'culture.'
In short... Chihiro was a NEET otaku without any real friends and definitely not adjusted to society.
John placed his hand on his chin and muttered, "Is this because of the theme, or is it coincidence?"
It was actually similar to how a group of 'prodigies' would be interacting.
John had *plenty* of personal experiences with prodigies, real, professed, or otherwise. Whatever the case though, they tended to lack social skills and the ability to pick up on social cues. Interacting with society as a whole tended to be a chore since they lacked the common sense that made it possible.
Especially 'heaven-sent prodigies' who thought they were the best under the skies. Arrogant pricks.
But anyway, while it wasn't that extreme here, there was still a problem in the relationship dynamics.
Unlike with Prototype where Rin was the anchor, Prodigy didn't have an anchor.
Yuri was better these days, but she was still originally that girl who ran after John like a crazy person because she thought that he did something to her grandfather... And then broke down crying after he showed her a bit of reality.
Shu had a bit more life experience than the others because she had to work odd jobs to make ends meet. But she was originally the heir to a secret martial arts school or something and ran away to experience the outside world.
Suzume... Even setting aside the fact that she was Zhuque's mortal reincarnation, she wasn't normal either due to being trained as a shrine maiden.
Then Chihiro was a NEET otaku who probably had low self-esteem and unchecked mental issues because Takashi was dealing with the yakuza issue all through her youth and had to keep his head down to avoid her dying like her mother did...
In short, a mess.
It was fine up to this point, but the debut and large audiences exacerbated everything. A spotlight and magnifying glass was placed over all the girls, causing their traits to amplify. And with that amplification came issues that would explode if unchecked.
Which happened because John had been busy with Yue and his family.
"Um." Shu spoke up and said, "Mister John?"
He looked over and nodded. "Yes?"
"We'll help Chi-chan and make sure this doesn't happen again. So..." Shu bowed and said, "Please don't disband us!"
Yuri's eyes widened and she quickly nodded. "R-Right! Don't give up on us yet!"
Suzume glanced at Chihiro and pursed her lips before sighing. After that, she nodded and said, "Chi-chan made a big mistake, but like you said, she is still a child. So... Give us one more chance, Mister John." Saying that, she looked at John as well and also bowed her head.
Chihiro's eyes widened and she looked guilty. "You guys..."
John didn't respond right away.
If he was being honest, this was his fault for not checking in with the girls in person. Well, mostly for not actually running the business and leaving it to other people... while not having the staff to run it properly.
A manager for the girls would have caught this and dealt with it before something crazy like this happened.
It was good that it happened in a contained environment and that no one got hurt before their first collab stream. But the core of the issue wasn't resolved yet.
John took the time to think, letting the girls stew for a bit.
Yue was busy taking care of Aurora now and had calmed down a lot. Zhaojun, Daji, and Xuannu were helping take care of their new niece as well and spending time with Yue.
If he could, he would ask Zhaojun to mentor the girls and act as a manager. But these sorts of problems were pretty different from the ones she had experienced.
John wasn't sure, but he was fairly certain that the 'streamer syndrome' the girls were having issues with were something that couldn't be resolved by someone from the Three Realms.
To begin with, the solution to mental health issues had always been to literally and physically confront them and then walk away calloused or collapse. Well, that or repress them to the deepest parts of your heart.
But that obviously wouldn't work here. Not only that, but these were normal girls. Constantly being in public with such a large audience was a brand new world for them. And also one that was already prone to causing mental health issues due to the stress.
It had still been new when he was transported, but John remembered that content creators were already suffering from things like burnout and public freakouts. It was part of the reason for the push in getting rid of mental health stigma as well.
So he needed someone who could help the girls through this. Get them used to being the center of attention and managing the stress. Not only that, but a support pillar to lean on as well.
John missed the boat on that. It was possible for Asako, Rin, and Alphy because they were there from the start, but to the Prodigy girls, he was already an aloof figure. There was a distance there that John was starting to close, but at this point...
No. He needed someone else to step in for this. And the best person...
Well. That'd be Jenny, but she was already being swamped helping John out. Not only that though, one person managing four different girls would be a bit much, even if Jenny was incredible.
Ideally, it should be one manager to a single or a couple of girls.
And then there should be someone to manage the managers as well and make sure things ran smoothly.
Something that should have been Qing's job, but the guy had dropped the ball.
...Which John honestly should have expected considering the guy's track history. At least Bai had a history of making profits before John came and ransacked- 'took compensation' for some slights.
In that case...
"Mister John?" Shu looked up, nervous.
Chihiro quickly moved in front of the girls and bowed to John. "D-Don't punish them, John- I mean, Mister John. This was all my fault, so..."
"Relax." John held up his hand and said, "Nobody's going anywhere. I said it, didn't I? Project MirAIs is a place to make dreams come true. It's something to help you girls fulfill what you wish for. Obviously I wouldn't throw you out. Though... It looks like we do have a bit of problem on our hands."
"It's not you, Chi-chan." John paused and said, "Well, not *just* you." He scratched the back of his head and said, "I forgot about the impact all this attention and success has on your mental states. Not to mention the fact that you were dropped into the deep end without being taught to swim."
The Prodigy girls looked up at John, all of them nervous.
John thought a bit more.
Should he hire some famous streamers? ...No, that wasn't good. He could vet them, but it would be a PR explosion if the truth came out somehow. And with people who had a large following and scrutiny, that was inevitable unless John personally intervened.
Even then, there were still traces.
After all, there was even a thread on him that was scarily accurate despite him doing his best to erase his tracks. Fortunately, it was still rumor, but the fact that those rumors existed was proof enough.
No. What John needed were some retired professionals. Specifically idols who knew how to deal with fame and scrutiny while also mentoring the younger girls. But who could-
He *did* know some people who met that criteria. Or rather, he knew someone who did.
"Alright. For today, instead of training we'll just have a nice hangout session while I cook a good meal for you girls. Starting tomorrow though, we'll be changing things up in here."
Yes. And the person who would help John with that...
Kai stared at John and said, "You want me to what?"
John laced his fingers together and said, "I'll cut it short. I want you to be the manager of an idol group."