395 – Starry Academy Days – III
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Meggie let out a sigh as she trailed behind the crowd of students leaving the auditorium through the doors on the side. 

Most of the parents were leaving now as well, having finished watching their child’s proud first day at a promising prestigious academy and the impactful opening ceremony speech.

Of course, most was not ‘all’. 

Meggie saw that her dad was still standing at the parent section and flipping through his black binder. No doubt doing work in the free time he could get.

If only he could have been more professional earlier in life, hah…

John noticed Meggie looking over and then gave a warm smile paired with a thumbs up.

Meggie rolled her eyes and then glanced back at the podium. There, her mom was still standing, shuffling through notes and talking to an assistant. 

Yue noticed Meggie looking and then let out a bright smile before subtly gesturing her to follow the students.

…Well, at least someone was enjoying this.

As for Meggie…

“...Are you listening, Meggie?”

A cute female voice echoed from the side.

Meggie tucked her hands into her blazer’s pockets and then glanced over.

Like the cute voice implied, it was a cute girl who had called out. Light brown hair that seemed to be turning into platinum blond these days, clear blue eyes. An innocent looking face that actually hid a lot of mischief. 

Tsuki Jin, Meggie’s best friend.

…Who was blatantly violating the dress code by wearing a fluffy pink headband with bunny ears.

Then again, Meggie was wearing her CapsuMon hoodie, so she wasn’t really one to talk.

Tsuki puffed her cheeks and said, “You weren’t listening, were you?”

Meggie shrugged and said, “Not really.”

Tsuki rolled her eyes and said, “This is why you aren’t going to get a boyfriend for a long time, Meggie.”

“Like I need one. And you need to stop reading so much manga.”

“Like how you need to stop playing so many games?”

Meggie blushed and said, “I don’t play that many games! I just play a few! …For a while.”

Shiny hunting took a lot of time, okay?

Tsuki giggled and said, “Sure, sure. Now come on, we’re falling behind.” She grabbed Meggie’s hand and dragged her back towards the other students.

Meggie grudgingly followed and said, “What’s the big deal about school anyway, Tsuki?” She looked around and frowned. “So far, it’s pretty boring.”

Sure, Meggie thought it was nice seeing Mom give a speech and walking to school with Dad, but it was pretty annoying having to waste time standing around. And if this was the highlight of the day…

Tsuki shook her head and said, “That’s because it hasn’t started yet! There’s still homeroom, meeting all our classmates, seeing the cute boys, lunch, and then club activities!”

“...One of those things doesn’t match.” Meggie sighed and said, “And besides, I don’t think Uncle Kai can handle hearing you be interested in a boy. Remember how he reacted when he saw how you bookmarked those confession scenes in your manga?”

Tsuki puffed her cheeks and said, “Daddy’s just overprotective! And I’m not giving up my dream of giving a confession tree at the sakura tree behind the school!”

“...The trees here are peach blossom trees.”

Tsuki waved her hand and said, “Same thing! Now…” She pulled Meggie close and pointed to a male student with black hair and blue eyes. “Look at that guy! Doesn’t he seem like a Prince Charming?” Tsuki giggled, suddenly acting all bubbly and giddy.

Meggie blinked and then let out a deep sigh.

Was this what Dad was talking about when he said normal girls change when they go through puberty? And how he wasn’t looking forward to Aurora’s teenaged years?

Tsuki had changed a lot in the half a year or so Meggie had known her.

…Oh god. Was Meggie going to be like that? 

Was she going to hit a point where she acted all bubbly and giddy just seeing a guy like Tsuki?

Meggie pulled out her phone.

Tsuki noticed and tilted her head. But then her eyes lit up and she said, “Ooh! Yeah, let’s take a picture to celebrate!”

“R-Right.”

That wasn’t what Meggie planned to do, but…

Xxx

[From: Meggie]
dad help

xxx

John glanced at the text from his second youngest daughter and then chuckled at the picture that came afterwards. 

Tsuki was beaming at the camera but Meggie was putting on a forced smile. Behind them, the middle school kids were heading down the hall, with a few kids looking back at them. Specifically, three male students who looked like the typical leads out of a shoujo manga. There was the typical blonde rich guy type that John knew all too well, a black-haired kid who seemed like the dark and brooding type that girls always fell for in romance novels, and then a red-head jock-type kid with green eyes. Literally and figuratively considering how he was glaring at a few of the other kids.

Another point to the theory that John’s kids had inherited the ‘protagonist’ aura he built up over the years. It was starting to look like Meggie would be having a ‘fun’ school life at this rate. 

Of course, that was what she wanted, so it was only just desserts.

John would need to talk with Kai some time soon though. With just that picture alone, John could already tell that there was going to be a lot of teenaged angst, drama, and misunderstandings abound. 

Anyway…

John typed a quick ‘lol’ back to Meggie and then glanced back at center of the auditorium. 

Yue had left to practice her speech a bit more behind the stage, and the other parents who had come to watch the opening ceremony had left. But that didn’t mean the place was empty.

As the middle schoolers left, the high schoolers started filtering in. With them came new parents… although not nearly as much as before. 

It was understandable. The students were at the age that they wouldn’t want their parents around and their parents would feel a bit uncomfortable hanging around to watch the opening ceremony because of that.

The only people here with John were the helicopter moms and the ultra-supportive parents/guardians. And speaking of those-

“Still here, John?” Sakura smiled and walked over. “I would have thought you’d be gone by now after Meggie and the kids left.”

John slipped his phone into his pocket and chuckled. “Well.” He glanced at backstage where he felt a pointed stare from Yue and said, “I think my cute wifey would be upset if I bailed on her now on such an important day.”

Sakura laughed and said, “That’s true.” She moved to stand next to John and then pulled out her phone. “She’s gotten better, but she’s still the clingy type, right?”

“I will neither confirm nor deny that fact.”

Sakura chuckled and then lifted her phone, aiming it towards the entrance where the high schoolers were walking in. As she started setting up the camera app on her phone, she glanced at John and said, “Well either way, I appreciate you being here to support Rin.” She pinched the screen to zoom in and said, “Asako said she wanted to come, but she’s busy…” She paused and looked over at John. “Though I guess you would know why?” 

John shrugged. “Again, I will neither confirm nor deny that fact.”

Sakura raised an eyebrow and said, “You’ve gotten more careful these days, huh?”

“I have confirmed that this world loves playing practical jokes on those who tempt fate, so yes. Especially since these are important times in many peoples’ lives.”

“I… see.” Sakura looked like she didn’t know how to respond to John’s serious response and focused her attention back on the incoming students.

As she did that, a man called out to John. “Yo, Boss!” 

Maji walked over, dressed in a sharp tuxedo. With his hair slicked back and tied in a ponytail, as well as with the sleek black sunglasses he wore, he looked like a sharp secret agent. 

“Haven’t seen you in a while.” Maji grinned and said, “Everything going well with the family?”

John nodded and said, “Well enough. Raising an overly precocious infant daughter is difficult, but we’re getting through it.” He paused to look around and said, “Kiri and Saji didn’t come with you?”

Maji stuck his hands in his pockets and said, “Nah. They were here earlier with me to walk Yuri to school, but they headed back already. Figured we’d embarrassed her enough and sent a strong enough message to the brats eyeing her up.”

Sakura scoffed at that and said, “That’s putting it lightly.” She glanced back and said, “Putting the full pressure of the legendary yakuza trio on a bunch of high school brats… You’re lucky the kids didn’t faint on the spot.”

Maji shrugged and said, “Well, the little lady would be upset.” He paused and said, “...And I was getting some weird vibes from your daughter. Felt like things might get out of hand if we kept it up.”

Sakura looked like she wanted to protest that statement. But then she paused, looked thoughtful, and pointedly went back to watching the high schoolers enter instead.

Maji blinked and raised an eyebrow at John.

John shrugged.

Wasn’t his place to explain how Rin was a half-step away from snapping and only kept sane because her conscience had manifested as the bright and cheery Hana. Although she *was* better these days.

After that Valentine’s day incident.

But anyway.

John decided to watch the crowd as well to pass the time.

Let’s see…

There was Rin, walking beside Yuri and chatting away. Yuri looked a bit uncomfortable, but that seemed to be from the fact that she was the senpai now and looked paranoid about letting something slip.

John’s lovely wife had finished practicing backstage and was just waiting for the students to all filter in.

It looked like Takashi had followed through on sending Chihiro to school here since she was walking in with a pouty face… and an entirely different look. 

Was she paranoid about not wanting to let something slip, or determined to reinvent herself?

The usual prim and proper Chihiro had bleached her hair, cropped it short, and swapped out her glasses for colored contacts. 

…Well, that was definitely one way to prevent people from catching on to any potential mistakes. 

Takashi was probably going to have a heart attack later though, if he didn’t have one already.

Suzume was in the back corner of the auditorium, already making friends with a group of students…

And that was everyone.

…Hm.

John made a mental note to set up some more contingency plans. 

Like potentially having some special ‘guest speakers’ ready to go.

Sakura waved at John and said, “I’m going to take some more pictures of Sweetie and the ceremony, John. I’ll send you some good shots of Yue later.”

With just that, Sakura wandered off.

Maji yawned and then looked towards John. “Well, looks like things are fine here.” He stretched and then said, “The little lady will be upset if she spots me, so I’ll head off first.” He waved and said, “Come get some udon sometime. Me and the guys still owe you.”

With that, Maji left as well.

Which left John alone. Almost too conveniently.

Usually when this happened…

John cut off his train of thoughts and then cautiously looked around. 

But nothing was out of the ordinary. Just some students chatting, some parents pretending not to look at him, and his wife’s burning gaze.

Okay. Let’s keep this up until the kids finish their first day of school…

And to keep things on track…

John pulled out his tablet while he waited for the opening ceremony to start and went through his list.

Let’s see… Auditions for the English branch of Project MirAIs were starting up soon, so he’d have to start prepping for that. 

The animated series reenacting the shenanigans the girls pulled in World Line was due to premiere soon, so he’d have to give the edit a once-over before it went live.

What else…

Ah, right.

People had been asking if there was a male counterpart for Project MirAIs planned.

Since the girls were fairly established now, they could afford to take a few more risks.

The question was the theme.

Project MirAIs was about granting the wishes of girls in need. Objectively, a bit misogynistic, but the optics were manageable.

The problem was that repeating that for guys… Mm. It could work, but it needed a bit of a twist.

John could already see the ‘gigachad’ and ‘sigma male’ trolls jumping in debut streams for any future male talents if they went with that. Ultimately not a big deal, but he had a feeling it would also develop an unstable fanbase.

No. Instead of granting wishes…

‘Second chances?’

…Yeah. That could work.

A failed adventurer group maybe?

Nah, too cliche.

A party that failed to defeat the Demon Lord?

…No, Ilgarde was already covering that niche. John didn’t want to step on anyone’s toes there.

Instead…

‘You know what?’

John had an experience being an isekai protag, returnee, and knew about all sorts of other protagonists. 

And since this one was going to be (mostly) straightforward with him spearheading it directly…

‘Screw it. Let’s just put it all out there.’

A ragtag group of protagonists picked up by the eternal transcendent. A group of ‘Hollow Stars’...

No. That name gave John a strange feeling. Like he was tempting a force that would make his life a living hell.

Then… ‘Armies?’ 

Nope, still felt weird. Not to mention too close to those K-Pop diehard fans.

…Let’s just go with ‘Project YUUSHA.’ He’d figure the real name out later.

Welcome, to Hoshigawa Academy.”

And there was his cute wifey starting up her speech.

More thinking and planning later. Things like scheduling concerts, six-month anniversaries, lorecrafting, and other things could come after making sure he didn’t add to his wife’s already growing pile of stress from her new job.

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