Age is Just a Number – 15

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Absentminded

“Good morning.”

“Good morning, Ma’am.”

“Good morning, Miss.”

Miyuki was recognized on a global scale, and even the most meager of employees identifying her and greeting her with respect was a testament to that fact. 

At the same time, Mayumi and Ichirou, who hadn’t made a name for themselves, still went unknown and enjoyed their mundane lives as normal students. 

Ichirou’s father and mother had done their best to shield them from the media and had invested a lot to let them live as they wished, and this was something that Ichirou had come to respect more as he grew up and discovered the cruelty of the media and society. 

Their father was a business tycoon and a beloved motivational speaker who gained his position by sheer hard work and determination. Their mother had been a very wonderful actress whose fan base annihilated the language barrier and reached worldwide. She was currently managing her own separate business dedicated to female beauty products and clothing. Her brand name was associated with wealth and luxury in the high-class society.

One could say that all three children had been born with diamond spoons in their mouths, and their upbringing was nothing short of extravagant. However, the god had blessed the Hashimoto couple with children that weren’t arrogant because their parents were influential, on the contrary, their two daughters would much rather stay home and take care of their little brother instead of going out and involving themselves with bad company. 

As for their son, who had been raised under the doting gazes of his four family members, just wished to live independently and make his family proud.

“Is Father in?”

Miyuki asked one of her father’s secretary. She was a woman in mid-thirties with an elegant posture and a professional appearance.

“Yes, Miss. Shin-san is inside.”

“Thank you.”

The secretary slightly bowed towards Mayumi and Ichirou as well, and the two bowed in return.

Miyuki walked forward and opened the door without any forewarning. It was a fantastic looking door with the words ‘Hashimoto Shin. President.’ carved onto it with what seemed like gold.

“Dad!”

As Miyuki walked in with Mayumi and Ichirou in tow, they were exposed to a room filled with the smell of wood. It was a very pleasant smell that soothed the nerves. The room itself was huge with a wide table at the end of it, behind which sat a man with a document in his hand. 

Hashimoto Shin, Ichirou’s father.

He was a man nearing his fifties, but he appeared to be a young man in his thirties. He was handsome, tall, and his build was strong. Though one could spot a white hair or two on his head, his charm was enough to deceive the untrained eye. He was a man who always carried himself with elegance and calmness expected of someone of his position. 

“Hmm? Oh~ Miyuki~? It’s been a long time. Mayumi too~? How co- W-wait… Ichirou?”

“Yeah, it’s been a while, Dad.”

Shin’s eyes shook upon hearing these words, he excitedly kicked off of the table and stood up fiercely, almost flipping the chair over. He ran over with an ecstatic expression on his face and hugged Ichirou. 

Well, he was calm most of the time.

“You’ve forgotten about us since you ran away from home, huh?”

“Dad.”

Ichirou frowned at his father’s sarcasm, but sighed in resignation and hugged him back. The hug lasted quite a while, and when they finally parted, Shin had a very affectionate expression on his face which seemed to overlap with that of Ichirou’s doting sisters and his overly overprotective mother.

“Well, at least you came to your mother’s birthday.”

“Of course.”

Ichirou smiled as he took a seat on one of the many luxurious couches in the room. Miyuki took the seat beside him while their father settled at the couch across the expensive-looking glass table. Mayumi, as if natural, headed over to the countertop to prepare tea for everybody.

“So, what’s the plan? You came to me because you want to surprise your mother, right? When I wished her at midnight, she said that the best present for her would be to see her three children.”

“Did she say that?” Miyuki giggled with her finger on her lips. “I am pretty sure she would want to cuddle with her dear son rather than her useless daughters.”

“Yes, yes, Nee-chan is right.”

Mayumi raised her voice from where she was busy pouring the boiling water into teacups.

“You both…”

Ichirou’s voice contained a bit of fatigue, he rubbed his face and looked at his father.

“Let’s go to Mom’s favorite restaurant. We can have a little party with just the family.”

“Yeah, that place has private rooms, I’ll make a reservation. Miyuki, can you make arrangements for Minami’s favorite cake?”

“Sure. Mayumi, we have our gifts, did you buy something for Mom too?”

“Yeah, Nee-chan. Mom said that she liked a certain perfume of a foreign brand over the phone the other day. I tried, but I couldn’t find it in Japan, so I ordered it from special channels. It should reach home tomorrow or day-after-tomorrow.”

“Is that so? Sweet.”

Mayumi smiled as she carried over a tray, she politely placed the saucers and cups on the table. She then settled beside Ichirou, he now was the definition of ‘a flower in both arms’. 

They continued to chat with smiles across their faces. Ichirou found himself feeling blessed, for he was part of a truly harmonious family where each member loved the other without the slightest bit of ill-feelings or bitterness, unlike most modern rich families. 

… 

Hashimoto Minami was a woman in her late forties, however, nobody would even call her a married woman if they laid their eyes on her for the first time. She had perfectly retained her beauty, charm, elegance, and figure from her glory days as a world-famous actress.

Even though she had retired and now owned a very successful company, the media industry still begged her to appear on their shows. Her mere name was enough to send the Japanese entertainment sector into turmoil.

Her marriage with the competent and handsome business tycoon Hashimoto Shin over twenty-five years ago had shaken the world, with the news channels covering their relationship for viewership even years after the marriage.

Currently, this woman was being accompanied by her beloved husband to her favorite restaurant for her birthday. The car quietly moved on the relatively clear road towards their destination.

“Dear, I told you that I didn’t want to eat outside, didn’t I? Can’t we just order food to our home and have a romantic dinner?”

“Isn’t it fine? We go out so less now… Do you not want to…?”

“Guh!”

Minami whimpered under the puppy-eyed persuasion of her husband. No matter how many years had passed, weaknesses were weaknesses. And her kryptonite was her pouting husband.

“Fine, fine. Don’t you make that face, we are too old to act like this.”

“Hahaha~ Don’t they say that in matters of love, age is just a number?” 

Shin said so and flashed a hearty grin towards Minami.

“Still as sweet-tongued as ever, I see.”

Minami puffed her cheeks and crossed her arms, drawing a nostalgic chuckle from Shin. It was as if they were sent back in time when they would escape from their respective duties and go out for dates.

“Those were the days.”

Shin mumbled with a smile.

“What do you mean? You are still the same. As childish as ever.”

“Hahaha~”

Minami chuckled along with Shin, but her eyes clouded soon after.

How wonderful would it be if the kids were here? Especially Ichirou, I haven’t seen him for a long time.

As soon as Minami thought about her son, her mood became extremely gloomy. 

Two years ago, Ichirou had practically begged the couple to let him live on his own when he reached high-school. Shin was still somewhat in favor of the idea, however, Minami was heavily against it. So much so that she locked herself in her room for days. Her two daughters were already living away at that time, and to let her dear son go was a complete nightmare for her.

After painstaking effort and unending perseverance, Ichirou had managed to persuade his overprotective mother with the help of the rest of the family. And Minami compromised thinking that Ichirou would not be able to live alone and would come back to her. 

However, such was not the case, especially since October of last year, after which for some reason, the distance between them dramatically increased, with phone calls becoming infrequent and he would come only during holidays and that too only for 1-2 days at most.

She still regretted her decision, however, she couldn’t pressure her son to come back for it was clear to her how happy he was. She could only force herself to smile and accept reality as it was. However, this didn’t mean that her affection for Ichirou decreased, on the contrary, her doting was amplified by leaps and bounds, and she would flood Ichirou with all her pent-up feelings whenever he would come to visit.

The car rolled by and they reached their destination, a chauffeur respectfully opened the car door for Minami and received the keys from Shin. Shin offered her hand and led the rather absentminded Minami inside the restaurant.

Minami just followed Shin inside but she was really out of it, her motherly heart ached for not being able to see her children. She did receive a call from all three of them at different times, telling her that they were still in their residences. 

Shin led her to the third floor where he had reserved a private room so that no one could disturb them. 

“Wait a moment.”

Minami was pulled out of her trance-like state by Shin’s voice. When she came to, she was standing in front of a sliding wooden door which led to one of the few private rooms in the restaurant. She tilted her head and wondered why Shin would ask her to stay behind and go into the compartment all alone.

He must’ve bought a cake or something. Maybe even a bouquet.  

Minami chuckled knowing that her husband’s romantic nature still hadn’t subsided, these small things that he did for her warmed her heart. Minami vigorously shook her head which made her brown locks jump up and down.

I will not be absentminded anymore. Since he’s done so much for me, I have to enjoy it!

With a newfound determination, Minami waited for Shin to invite her in, and she didn’t have to wait long for him to open the door.

“Come in.”

Shin said with a grin. Minami smiled and grabbed Shin’s outstretched hand, and walked inside the room with him… Only to see something that shook her to the very core.

“No way…” 


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