342 – Returning Transcendent Opens an Idol Agency – IV
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[From: Alphy]

Morning, Papa! Sorry for not calling. I'm having lots of fun with Asa-chan, Rin, and the other girls! We're going to be hanging out today and watching each other's video premieres on a big screen! Love you, and hope my baby sister isn't crying too much! <3

"The other girls, huh?" John lowered his phone and shook his head. "Looks like I'm definitely brushing off on my kids these days."

Was it because they had the space to live their own lives these days without worrying? All of John's daughters seemed to be carrying a protagonist aura or something with the way events seemed to be unfolding around them...

Well, they were happy, so even if it was weird, John didn't mind it too much.

"For now, I need to focus on Project MirAIs... Ah, gotta respond to Alphy first." John typed a quick response to Alphy and then tucked his phone away. After that, he took a look around.

As usual these days, he was in his office. The Myth Incorporated staff meeting was a couple days ago now, and everyone was preparing for the new year that was fast approaching.

And for those preparations, Jenny was coming in clutch. Maybe since she wanted to help John out like a proper younger sister... or maybe since she was super passionate about Project MirAIs, Jenny was being a real taskmaster checking up on everyone and sending John concise and organized daily reports.

And now, going over last night's report...

John leaned back in his chair and sipped on the coffee that Yue brewed for him.

Super sweet, with a hint of cream. The bitterness was still there, but it was faint now.

...One part of John wondered if that was intentionally symbolic from Yue. The better part of John decided that it was better to assume it was and not question it much more than that. Although...

John shifted his gaze towards Yue's room and said, "Aurora is really being a good girl for her Mom, huh?"

Instead of the typical crying baby keeping them all up, the newest addition to the Smith family just acted cute all day and did her best to make Yue happy. And as a result, Yue was hogging Aurora and spending every day either gushing over how cute she was with John's sister, or dragging John's father-in-law out to shop.

Everyone was happy though, so it was fine. John kinda wanted to go out as a family and be a loveydovey new parent couple with Yue, but since things were going well, he decided to not rock the boat.

Especially since that meant he had free time to clear up the stuff he had been neglecting.

Like the report he was just about to read until he got sidetracked.

John shook his head to clear it a bit and then scanned Jenny's report.

It looked like things were on track. Kai had put together business proposals for the Prodigy girls to help promote them a bit more, including some live interviews. Eri was putting in proper work as the in-house doctor for Myth Incorporated by running proper check-ups on Kai's previous idols...

Which reminded John that he should check in with those girls at some point and talk with Kai to see if he could help them out some way or another.

But anyway...

Speaking engagements. A follow-up interview with Poppy Gloria. Titor's ideas about how to have the Project MirAIs girls interact in real life by using a combination of VR and robots...

Hm. That seemed like an interesting idea. John was thinking more along the lines of a magical girl transformation thing that overlapped the girls with their avatar, but that was a good backup.

Other than that... It looked like there were movements on the VTuber front. A lot of independent streamers had sprung up, but there were a lot of recruitment auditions for other companies trying to hop on the bandwagon too. And hidden among those companies was the secret collaboration project between Titor and John that had already secured the first of its talents and managers.

In other words...

"Just as planned, huh?"

John smiled, happy that things were working out.

And then a chime echoed in his room and the elevator doors opened.

"Dad!"

John blinked and looked over to see Meggie marching in.

Like usual, she was wearing a cozy oversized hoodie. Today, it seemed like she was repping CapsuMon with their electric mouse mascot printed in the middle of her black hoodie.

Unlike usual, she looked panicked.

John set his cup of coffee down and then shifted his report off to the side. After that, he smiled and said, "What's wrong, Meggie?"

"I need life counseling!"

"...Huh?"

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

From the time she was born, Suzume's life had been a bit strange.

First of all, she apparently showed up at the doorsteps of her adoptive parents one day as an infant, with nothing but a card saying her name.

It was something that seemed straight out of a movie, except it was reality.

And speaking of movies, her adoptive parents were definitely characters in and of themselves.

Her adoptive father, Masa, was a retired blacksmith who had managed to make enough money selling recreations of anime props online to live a comfortable life doing whatever he wanted.

Her adoptive mother, Cherry, was a sales and marketing wizard who apparently made a lot of money when she was younger doing contract work as a hacker.

Apparently, the two met after Cherry wanted to get into cosplay and needed some props, leading her to meet Masa in person since she needed exact measurements.

There were a lot of other things that happened too, which they wrote off as 'legacy of a misspent youth', but in short, Suzume's adoptive parents were wild.

...Which made her wonder if that was the reason they sent her off to study at a shrine so that she wouldn't get influenced by their bad habits.

But that aside...

Suzume's life had been strange. It had become even stranger recently after coincidentally reuniting with her long lost uncles and meeting Mister John.

But if she had to rank everything that had happened in her life in terms of strangeness... Well, this wouldn't be the strangest thing that happened. That would always be the time Chihiro sent them into that virtual reality world. But this was pretty close.

It was the lounge area of the onsen. A room off to the side with modern amenities for guests who grew a bit tired of the traditional atmosphere.

Personally, Suzume thought that was rude and that such accommodations were unnecessary, but her adoptive parents didn't mind.

In any case, Suzume was sitting in the lounge area, sipping on some iced oolong tea. Her adoptive mother, Cherry, was there as well, carrying a tray of cookies.

At first, Suzume thought they were for her. Cherry enjoyed baking and used to spoil Suzume with baked treats.

But instead...

"Would you like some cookies, Rin-chan?"

"Yes, Cherry nee-san!"

...She walked over to another table where a giant bear pelt had been draped over a chair.

At least, that was what Suzume thought.

But after hearing Rin's voice, Suzume took a closer look and saw that it was actually Rin wearing an oversized cloak made from the head of the bear and its fur.

Cherry giggled and set the tray of cookies down in front of Rin. "You really adore that bear cloak, don't you?"

"Mmhm!" Rin nodded and said, "It's loot from the first monster I killed with my own two hands, so I'm super proud of it! Especially since Onee-chan helped me turn it into a cloak!" She stood up and twirled, causing the brown fur cloak to spin. "It's cool, right?"

Loot? Monster?

...Killed?

Suzume idly sipped on her tea while watching Rin talk and then muttered, "What did I miss while I was ill?"

She knew that she had been sick for a few days because she stayed too long in the hot springs and fainted. And for most of that time, she had been slipping in and out of sleep with some weird dreams...

Was she still dreaming? Maybe it was a stroke?

Suzume smiled.

...No. Her face wasn't drooping so it wasn't that. But...

"Suzu-chan!"

Before Suzume could react to the voice, a figure pulled her into a hug.

"You're finally awake! Geez, I thought you out of all of us would know better than to stay in the hot springs too long!"

Suzume blinked and then realized that it was Shu. Seeing that it was, she smiled and said, "My apologies. It was... an unfortunate sequence of events."

Shu patted Suzume's shoulders and said, "Well don't worry! Today we're going to have a watch party, so all you have to do is sit back and get better!"

Suzume nodded. "Yes. That sounds nice- Wait." She tilted her head and said, "Watch party?"

"Yep!" Shu gave Suzume a thumbs up and said, "We're going to be watching each other's videos today! And I think that Asako-Senpai's video is starting soon, so let's go!"

Before Suzume could protest, Shu pulled her up and started dragging her along.

Still holding her glass of oolong tea, Suzume sighed and just let Shu lead.

Suzume would have preferred a bit more peace and quiet to gather her bearings this morning, but spending time with friends was always worthwhile.

And she was curious.

Just exactly what sorts of videos did Asako-senpai prerecord for this trip?

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