382 – Cuddle break
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The Smith family household. A two-story Western-styled house on the outskirts of Kichijoji.

Since it was late in the afternoon, most of the occupants of the house were missing.

Meggie had gone off to play with Tsuki and the twins, Xuan and Wu.

John was out doing work.

Alphy was streaming...

And Yue's father, Jade Emperor Yudi, had declared that he was going on a journey to the west to find the greatest gifts in order to make up for embarrassing his granddaughter.

...Though realistically, that just meant that he was borrowing John's card and visiting downtown Tokyo to look for presents.

In any case, that just left Yue alone in the house with her cute baby daughter, Aurora.

Yue smiled as she sat down in a chair by the porch, holding Aurora in her arms. "My daughter... why are you so adorable?"

Cute, chubby cheeks. Bright eyes that seemed either blue or green depending on the light. Curly golden hair already starting to cover her head...

Yue let out a bright smile and then leaned over to kiss Aurora on the forehead. "I love you so much, my daughter. So, so much."

Aurora wrinkled her nose and then moved her hand around lightly smacking Yue's face. "Ma! Mama!"

Yue giggled and then said, "That's right. It's Mama."

Aurora puffed her cheeks and then squirmed a bit, trying to get out of Yue's grasp. "Ma! Mamaaaa!"

"Now, now." Yue shifted her grip on Aurora and said, "It's dangerous to move so much." After making sure Aurora was firmly in her grasps, Yue reached out to poke Aurora's nose and said, "You might be the child of myself and your esteemed father, but unfortunately you were not born a Xian. Be a bit patient before seeking to explore the world, my cute daughter."

"Bah." Aurora puffed her cheeks and then huffed, closing her eyes.

Yue smiled and then leaned back in the chair, making herself comfortable as she gazed at her child again.

Yes. Her child. The child between herself and her beloved husband. The child born not just from her blood, but who was raised in her body and born of her flesh. And not born through some heavenly or divine means, but from the barest and truest form of motherhood like any mortal woman would have to endure.

A child wrought from love that Yue had carried within herself until she was born...

"Ma?" Aurora tilted her head and looked up at Yue.

Yue laughed and reached down, lovingly tracing out Aurora's features. "My precious daughter... I can never tire of looking at you."

The slightly chubby cheeks that would thin out to look like hers as Aurora grew. The sharp nose that was so like John's. The golden hair that was the exact shade as John's...

Although a bit of a pity that it wasn't the same shade of green as Yue's, it made her happier since it reaffirmed that it wasn't just her daughter, but the daughter she had with John.

Not that Yue loved Meggie any less. She would always love her eldest daughter for being the first proof that John cared for her, even if Meggie was born from just their shared blood and external means.

But in hindsight, Yue didn't appreciate what it meant to be a mother until she had Aurora.

Knowing that such a beautiful tiny creature was born from her, that she had carried such a life in her body...

"Ahem." John's voice echoed from the side and he said, "Am I interrupting something?"

Yue flinched and turned her head to look at John. "Husband!" She huffed and stood up, carefully cradling Aurora. "You should send warning before you turn up like that!"

John laughed and then walked over, hugging both Yue and Aurora. "My bad. But I just felt like I wanted to come home and cuddle my cute wife and baby girl."

Yue felt her face heat up. She quickly buried her face against John's chest and then said, "You and your silver tongue..."

"I'd say it's gold instead of silver. And considering how often you ask me to use it-"

Yue's face burned up and she quickly stepped back. "HUSBAND!"

"Baba!"

Aurora babbled as well and then waved her hands around in John's direction.

John laughed and then gently pulled Aurora away from Yue. "Okay, okay. Daddy will be a bit more professional around you and Mommy."

"Ba!" Aurora blew a raspberry and then reached out to smack John with her hand.

John easily dodged it and then looked around the house. "Meggie and the twins not home? I wanted to hug them too before I headed back to work."

Yue smoothed her green dress and tried not think about how much she already missed not holding Aurora. "No. Meggie and the twins are out playing today with Tsuki."

"Right." John nodded and then leaned over to rub his cheek against Aurora's.

"BA! BABA!"

John chuckled and then leaned back.

Yue took Aurora back from John and then said, "Is there a reason why you have returned so early, Husband? I remember you saying you would not be back until dinner at the earliest."

John chuckled again at seeing Aurora squirm against Yue, as if trying to get away from him at all costs. But after that, he looked at Yue and said, "I told you. I just wanted to hug my cute wife and baby girl." He sighed and said, "It's been a long day."

Yue sat back down with Aurora and smiled. "Well. Now you know how I felt managing your sect by myself."

"And I will always love you for that, Wifey." John paused and said, "Which reminds me that I should probably check up on everyone there-"

"Ahem."

"I mean, *we* should probably check up on everyone there." John cleared his throat and then said, "I'm missing some competent personnel, so it'd be nice to have some people I could trust around."

Yue shifted in her seat and said, "This is the result of letting that snake and cat run things instead of doing it yourself, Husband."

"Qing and Bai would be sad if they heard that... but it's true." John sighed. "Not to mention that they're terrible at dealing with women."

Yue gently rocked Aurora in her arms and said, "Speaking of women... you said you were speaking with those girls in that pet project of yours today. Since you mentioned stress... I presume things did not go as planned?"

John waved his hand and summoned a couch to plop himself in. "Don't remind me." He let out a deep sigh and then pulled a thermos from his Heavenly Realm.

Yue's eyes lit up when she recognized it as the one filled with coffee she made for him and then she let out a soft smile. After that though, she said, "Do you want my help?"

Aurora's eyes widened and she waved her hands around. "Ba! Baba!"

John glanced at her before looking at Yue. "Not right now. But I think I'll probably ask you to help be our psychologist soon."

Yue blinked and said, "Psy call of gist?"

"No. Psychologist... It's like a person who helps treat the inner demons and sort out the karma of people they treat."

"Oh!" Yue nodded and said, "So a divine doctor specializing in karma and heart tribulations... I understand." She giggled and said, "But to think that there is an area my dear husband lacks confidence in..."

John got up to hug Yue and said, "Mmhm. And it's an area my cute wifey can help out with. Isn't it perfect?"

Yue blushed.

Aurora looked between her parents and then rolled her eyes before saying, "Ba."

John chuckled and then said, "Alright. I haven't had lunch yet and I've got a little bit of time before the next person comes in."

Yue's eyes lit up and she said, "Can you make some putei chips, Husband?"

John blinked and said, "I can... but are you sure you don't want something healthier? I'll love my cute wifey no matter what, but eating stuff like that can make you a bit rounder..."

Yue froze and then slowly said, "R-Really, now? Um... this is hypothetical of course, but what other sorts of food might cause such a phenomenon...?"

"Hm? Well, most deep fried things. Sweet treats, breads, pastries, cakes..." John started listing things off and said, "Most things in this world that taste good aren't really good for you actually."

Yue paused and thought back to all the treats that her sister-in-laws had been bringing back. And then she remembered how her dresses had been a bit tighter recently...

"F-Forget about the putei chips, Husband! M-Make me something healthy, please! Natural ingredients only!"

John tilted his head, confusion clear on his face. "...Sure." As he walked off to the kitchen, he mumbled, "Looks like even my cute wifey can't escape the health food craze, huh...?"

Yue ignored John's words, shifting Aurora to one hand before poking at her belly.

'Curse you foods of my husband's homeland. How dare you be so delicious and yet so damning...!'

xxx

4:05 PM. At that time, a chime went off at John's office, and the elevator doors opened. Shortly after, Shu ran out of the elevator, bowing her head in apology. "Sorry Mister John! I was exercising and forgot the time!"

A half-zipped black hoodie. Grey sweatpants. Sneakers with the laces untied. Short black hair that was still a bit wet from a fresh shower.

Shu raised her head and said, "It won't happen again, promise, Mister-"

She paused, suddenly realizing that it was an empty office.

"...Mister John?"

At that time, the sound of a door opening in the corner of the room echoed.

Shu turned around to see John walk out of it, holding... a baby girl?

John shifted the baby girl around and said, "Sorry for making you wait, Shu. My cute wifey said she wanted to get in some exercise, so I have to watch Rara for a bit... Hm. That doesn't sound right either..."

"Rara!"

"Just because it's easier for you to say doesn't mean that I'll call you that, sweetie."

"Ba!"

Shu blinked and then said, "Um. Mister John?" She eyed the baby and said, "Is that your daughter?"

"Yeah." John walked forward and then shifted Aurora to look at Shu. "Say hello, Aurora."

"Ba!" Aurora waved her hand and then smiled.

Shu blinked again, still a bit shocked at the sudden turn of events. But then she slapped her face to focus and said, "Yosh! So what are we talking about, Mister John?"

John sat down at one of the two lounge chairs set up in the center of the room before handing a pacifier to Aurora. After that, he said, "You don't need to be so strung up, Shu. We're just chatting today." He smiled and said, "Think of this as a proper meet and greet, or like a catch up chat with friends. There's a bit more we should technically do... but since the last few meetings have been a mess, we'll just start there."

Shu sat down and said, "A mess? How?"

John sighed. "...Don't worry about it."

Aurora giggled.

John poked her cheek and said, "Quiet, you."

Aurora pulled out her pacifier and then said, "Baba! Ba!"

"Says the girl who still can't talk right."

"Ba! Bababa!"

Shu looked between Aurora and John before saying, "You can understand her?"

John stared at Shu and said, "Of course not. Babies can't talk until they're a few months old. Aurora is barely two months."

"Bababa!"

"No, sweetie. The year you spend in Mommy's tummy doesn't count."

"...Ba."

Aurora puffed her cheeks and then grabbed her pacifier, stuffing it back into her mouth. After that, she viciously chewed on it, clearly upset.

Shu blinked and then said, "But... why are you talking to her like she can understand you?"

John shrugged and said, "Babies are people too. Better to treat them like that from the start, right?"

"..."

"..."

"..."

John cleared his throat and said, "A-Anyway... How about we start at the beginning?"

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