393 – Starry Academy Days – I
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*I was such a fool... and I was childish.*

*Chasing dreams, while being hurt then every day...*

A familiar song played on the radio, sung by a man with a suave voice.

Hearing the song, Rin felt a bit nostalgic. It helped calm her down a bit, but she still couldn't avoid feeling nervous sitting there in the passenger seat.

The first day of school had come.

Despite all of Rin's protests and stating that it would be jeopardizing her career, both John and Rin's mother were having none of it.

John said that Rin needed to interact more with people her own age and generally society as a whole.

It had something to do with avoiding extremism and internet bubbles, as well as maintaining mental health. That, and avoiding burn-out.

Rin didn't agree. But considering that John and Titor went out of the way to make an AI version of Hana to help fill in for her during studies, she couldn't really refuse...

Especially when John pointed out how it could be plausible deniability for Rin if she was both in school and streaming at the same time.

Personally, Rin thought it was a bit weird. She had always talked to and talked about Hana like she was her own person, but having Hana talk back to her...

It was like you were staring at your reflection and it suddenly started moving on its own.

Regardless, that was how it was going to be going forward. And the main cause for that...

Sakura glanced over at Rin and said, "You still upset about going to school, Sweetie?"

Rin frowned and tugged on the ribbon for her school uniform. "...I dunno."

She wasn't upset about going to school. It was more that she couldn't spend all day streaming with the Ohana and hanging out with Aneue and Onee-chan any more.

School itself...

Rin lowered her hands and said, "...Is it fine for me to go back?"

Sakura nodded and said, "Of course it is. What happened back then wasn't your fault, Sweetie."

Rin looked out the window and didn't respond.

Her mom was right. That incident only happened because the other girls pushed her too far.

But if something like that happened again...

Rin clenched her hands.

Seeing that, Sakura sighed and said, "Rin."

"...Yes, Mom?"

"Relax. No one at school is going to hurt you."

Rin furrowed her brows and said, "That's not what I'm worried about, Mom."

She was more worried about hurting other people than being hurt.

After all, Rin knew just how scary she could be now.

...Although she still wasn't entirely sure if that dream with meeting Hana and Mister John was real or not.

They arrived at the parking lot in the front of the school.

Sakura parked the car and then looked over at Rin.

Rin flinched and looked away.

Sakura shook her head. "Sweetie." She held out her hand and placed it on Rin's head.

Rin looked over at her mother.

Sakura smiled and said, "Everything will be okay. I'm healthy and have a good job now, so you don't need to worry about the future. Just go and have fun. Make friends."

Rin frowned. "...I know. But... do I really have to?" She looked at the crowd of students walking towards the building and said, "...I'm not like the other kids."

It was the first day of school, and also the opening day of Hoshigawa academy.

Despite that, there were already students chatting to each other and forming friends.

...Could Rin actually do that? Would anyone be interesting in talking to her when she wasn't being Hana? Would-

A loud *click* echoed. The sound of the doors being unlocked.

Rin flinched and looked over at her mother.

Sakura shook her head and unclicked her seatbelt. After that, she left the car and walked around to the other side. She opened the door for Rin and then said, "Come on, Sweetie."

Rin blinked. "...Mom?"

Sakura smiled and said, "What? Did you think I was just going to drop you off and leave?" She reached in and unbuckled Rin before tidying up her clothes. "This is the first time I get to see my Sweetie's opening school ceremony. I'm not going to miss it, you know?"

Rin looked at her mom and then smiled, doing her best to stop the tears starting to form.

"Hey now! No crying, Sweetie." Sakura brushed off Rin's tears and said, "It's a happy and fun day."

Rin sniffed and said, "I know, Mom." She rubbed her eyes and then got out of the car.

At that time, another car pulled into the parking lot nearby. A black sedan with blacked out windows.

The doors opened and then a girl with blonde hair stepped out, followed shortly by a group of three men wearing black suits.

Yuri, along with Kiri, Maji, and Saji.

"I keep telling you guys, I'll be fine! It's just a year anyway- Hm?" She paused when she saw Rin. "...Senpai?"

Rin laughed and walked over. "You mean Kouhai, Yuri Senpai." She pointed at the different colored ribbons and said, "See?"

Yuri blinked and then let out a deep sigh. "This is going to be a complicated year, isn't it?"

Rin giggled.

xxx

Hoshikawa Academy. Or, in English, "Star River" Academy.

At least, that was what it should roughly translate to.

John thought it was a bit cheesy for a school name.

Well, it 'was' supposed to be a school meant to give even trouble students a chance to become a star given the 'stellar' academic and sports facilities as well as staff.

In that sense, the name was on point.

...John still thought it was a bit excessive though.

But he couldn't say anything back to Yue about it after she pointed out his naming sense for his first three daughters.

It seemed like his beloved wife had done some reading and realized that John had picked out some over the top and very much hammy and chuuni names for his oldest daughters...

He'd like to say it was a phase, but considering that he still thought the names were pretty cool...

Meggie groaned and said, "Could you NOT space out for one minute, Old Man?"

John instantly snapped out of his thoughts and then looked at Meggie in shock. "O-Old Man?!"

Meggie nodded. "Yeah. Old Man. What else should I call you when you space out so often?"

John frowned and said, "I don't space out *that* often."

Meggie snorted and said, "Keep telling yourself that, Old Man."

John sighed and shook his head, taking a look around to distract himself from the fact that his daughter was definitely entering her rebellious phase.

Hoshikawa Academy was an elite prep school located in one of the neighborhoods of Tokyo.

John wasn't too familiar with the exact location since he just had it saved on his GPS, but he knew it was in one of the nicer neighborhoods.

In any case, today would also be the grand opening ceremony for the academy.

And considering that it was one that served Junior High up to High School, there were tons of students around.

...It was kind of surprising though.

It was true that they had top of the line facilities, world-ranked staff, etc. etc.

But it was still a brand new academy without any history behind it.

All the credentials were there though, of course.

...Took a bit of finagling with minor time travel and distortion to leave a proper paper trail, but everything was legitimate.

John glanced at Meggie again and said, "You ready to make some new friends, Princess?"

"Don't call me that. And yeah." Meggie stuffed her hands in her hoodie pockets while looking around. "...We'll see though. These guys all look kinda boring."

John nodded.

Good, good. He wouldn't have to worry about Meggie dragging home any guys yet then.

...Though from the looks of things, he might need to worry about some guys following his daughter around.

A handsome young pre-teen kid with blonde hair and red eyes that oozed 'prince' vibes eyed Meggie from the distance as he chatted up a group of girls surrounding him by a sakura tree in the main courtyard.

A cool black-haired kid with icy blue eyes stole glances at Meggie while pretending to scroll through stuff on his phone.

And a red-haired kid that emanated 'jock' vibes was doing his best to pretend he wasn't looking at Meggie with his green eyes. Of course, the fact that he was doing that while failing to dribble a basketball didn't help.

Fortunately, Meggie wasn't paying any attention to the kids.

Unfortunately, John had a feeling his daughter was about to get wrapped up in a heck of a lot of drama soon.

...Well. It would be the authentic high school experience at least?

"Uncle John! Meggie!" A bright female voice echoed as someone ran over.

Meggie turned to look and then smiled, immediately getting rid of her gloomy expression. "Tsuki!"

Tsuki laughed and then hugged Meggie before saying, "You came!"

Meggie's ears turned red and she said, "Of course. I promised, didn't I?"

Footsteps echoed from behind Tsuki, and then a kind female voice called out. "Didn't I tell you, Princess? Your friend wouldn't leave you to go to school alone... And hello, Mister John."

John looked over at the woman and smiled. "Good morning, Elise."

Elise Rothschild- No, Elise 'Jin' now that Kai had filed a proper marriage certificate and settled down with her.

It seemed like time with Tsuki and Kai had helped her a lot since her long blonde hair had gained a vibrant hue, and her ghost-like pale skin now had a normal color to it.

John looked behind Elise and said, "Kai isn't with you guys?"

Tsuki stepped back from Meggie and said, "Daddy's busy right now, so he's going to come pick me up instead!"

John hummed. "Busy, huh?"

He doubted it, considering how efficient of a worker Kai was.

John thought it was more likely that the guy didn't want to have the awkward conversation that would arise if he ran into Sakura while Elise was around.

Didn't blame him though.

John knew exactly how messy that stuff could get from personal experience... though Kai *did* have to resolve the weird tension between him and Sakura sooner rather than later.

A bell chimed. Shortly after, a lovely female voice echoed from the intercom system. Yue's.

*The opening ceremony will occur in the gymnasium. Students, please make your way there at this time. Helpers will be on hand to guide you to your proper location. Parents and relatives, please follow the signs to the bleachers and viewing balcony next to the gymnasium.*

Meggie looked towards John and said, "Looks like this is where we split up, Dad."

John walked over to Meggie and fixed her ribbon and hoodie strings. "Yep. Now, don't get into any fights, okay?"

Meggie rolled her eyes and said, "I'm not a kid, Dad. I know."

"Just making sure." John stepped back and said, "I don't want to have to cover up a big incident again like Valentines."

Meggie turned a bright red and said, "W-We said we wouldn't talk about that anymore!"

John laughed and said, "Yeah, yeah." He placed his hand on Meggie's shoulder and said, "Take care and have fun, okay, Meggie? Don't be in too much of a rush to grow up, alright?"

Meggie stared at John for a while, mixed emotions on her face. But then she nodded and said, "Okay, Dad."

John patted Meggie's shoulder and then said, "Alright then. Now..." He glanced over at the propped up white signs directing people to the audience area and said, "I'll see you later, Kid."

Meggie snorted and said, "See ya, Pops."

At that time, Tsuki ran over and grabbed Meggie's hand. "Let's go, Meggie! If we don't hurry, we'll have to fight for seats!"

Meggie's eyes lit up and she cracked her knuckles. "Oh yeah? We'll see about that..."

After that, the two young girls ran off towards the gym.

...Now John didn't believe in higher beings since he was pretty much at the top. But it would be REALLY nice if this whole thing went off without a hitch...

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