Age is Just a Number – 16

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A Very Happy Birthday

“Happy birthday Mom~!”

Three easily distinguishable voices overlapped and entered Minami’s ears as she entered the private compartment her husband had booked for her birthday dinner. The sight that greeted her was one that she longed for from the bottom of her heart. Her three children along with her husband were standing in front of her, smiles on their faces. The sight she was unexpectedly confronted with overwhelmed to the degree that she went numb and couldn’t even react for a couple of seconds.

Minami was expecting something of the same nature. Her husband had been always been more of a romantic type. Flowers, surprise trips, unexpected visits, etc, were all too familiar to her. However, she could never have imagined that it’d not be just her husband, but her three children together as well.

The sensation following the momentary numbness was that of immense joy, warmth, and slight sorrow. Joy and warmth because all that she had wanted was right in front of her, that is, her beautiful family. And sorrow because of the realization that this was just a short-lived dream that she would have to snap out of soon. 

She was a doting parent, sure, but she would never go against her children’s wishes if she could. Minami held back when Mayumi and Miyuki left the house, but she snapped when Ichirou requested to move out and in high-school no less. However, she gave in when she came to know the seriousness and sincerity behind Ichirou’s selfishness. 

Minami pushed these gloomy thoughts to the back of her head as she raised her hand to wipe away the tears that trickled down her cheeks without pause. She took deep breaths to calm herself, but her excitement just wouldn’t go down.

“Miyuki… Mayumi… Ichirou…”

She muttered in a low voice, trying her best to not sob between her words. She walked towards Ichirou with a smile, and opened her arms wide, bringing along the two sisters for the hug as well. She rubbed her cheeks against those of her childrens’ as she said in a clearly delighted voice.

“Thank you… This is the best birthday gift I could ever receive.”

The three siblings smiled as they showered Minami with comforting words and birthday wishes. 

The family then had a lively dinner, they talked, laughed, became emotional, and fought. A normal and happy family.

…  

“That was fun, wasn’t it?”

“Yep. Mom cried too much though.”

Miyuki and Ichirou had to get back to Miyuki’s apartment because of their job and school respectively, so they refused their mother’s insistent request to spend the night at the main Hashimoto residence. They were currently on their way to Miyuki’s home in her car. The roads were clear and well-lit, so it turned out to be a very pleasant drive for the siblings.

“Haha~ She becomes like that when it concerns you, Ichirou. She just dotes on you too much, enough to make a grown woman jealous, y’know. Wonder what she’ll do if you get a girlfriend?” 

Ichirou reflexively went stiff and began to leak sweat even though the temperature outside was nearly in single digits.

“I wonder… Hey, Miyuki… What would you if I get a girlfriend.”

Ichirou had never managed to ask such a question as he was aware of his sister’s sharp intuition. If he were to randomly bring up an imaginary girlfriend in a conversation, there wasn’t a shred of doubt in his mind that Miyuki would’ve seen through him. His sister was scary like that.

“Hmm~?” Miyuki tapped on the steering wheel for a bit before answering with a serious expression. “Unless and until she really really loves you, she’s dead.”

“And what if she does?”

“Then she’s gotta pass my 108 tests of hell! You don’t currently have a girlfriend, do you?”

Miyuki’s expression grew sharper and more severe by the second as she slowed down the car and turned her neck to stare at Ichirou’s face.

“No, I don’t. I was just asking since I keep getting confessions.” 

“You better not.”

Ichirou sighed in relief as Miyuki’s eyes returned on the road. Her expression was colored with satisfaction.

The date had already changed by the time they arrived at the apartment, and neither of the two had any time to play around, so after some one-sided flirting from Miyuki’s side, they both fell asleep with Miyuki using Ichirou’s arm as a pillow.

“Oh, come on, I am sorry, alright?”

“…”

“Hikaru… Don’t be like this. Kyoko, you say something to her.”

“Bah!”

The location was the Physics prep room. The trio Ichirou, Kyoko, and Hikaru were sitting around one of the tables in the room and eating lunch. This wasn’t an especially unique sight as these three would often eat lunch together. Not every day of course, because Ichirou would normally eat with Arata and his other friends or the student council. There were many instances where he would be invited by other girls to eat together.

However, there was indeed something irregular. That is, Ichirou was eating bread bought from the cafeteria. A year or so ago, it wouldn’t be considered out of the norm for him to eat food from the cafeteria as he didn’t always have time to cook in the morning, however, he hadn’t touched the cafeteria bread in a long time, thanks to Hikaru’s and his own efforts to make lunch boxes every morning.

Ichirou, while still lamenting about Hikaru’s foul mood, tried his best to sway her with sweet words. However, unlike her usual easy self, she refused to budge. When Ichirou came across Hikaru in the morning, he greeted her like usual, but she completely ignored him, cementing the fact that something had happened and she was angry with him. Since then, he’s his best to soothe the smol tigress’s anger.

Hikaru sneaked a glance at the bread in Ichirou’s hands and directed the same gaze at Ichirou himself. Then she immediately turned her head away with a pout. 

“Hey, now… Don’t do this to me.”

Ichirou’s eyebrows twitched as he tried his best to sound as gentle as possible. He would normally use some ‘extreme’ measures to please Hikaru, but as Kyoko was in the room, and just wouldn’t leave even after him dropping so many hints, he had to take a rather unwelcomed approach. 

“Forty-six.”

“Huh?”  

“I CALLED YOU 46 TIMES AND YOU DIDN’T PICK UP!”

BAM!

Hikaru slammed the table and stood up with her face red. Her face wasn’t red from embarrassment as it usually was, this time it was from anger.

“DO YOU REALIZE HOW WORRIED I WAS!? YOU COULD’VE INFORMED ME THAT YOU WERE GOING HOME TO YOUR FAMILY!”

Huff huff

Hikaru sat down while breathing heavily. Kyoko, who was sitting across the table, had an astonished look on her face. This was the first time she had seen Hikaru this furious. Though she had witnessed Hikaru getting pissed many times, this was probably the first time she had shouted, that too in front of Ichirou, who Hikaru rarely disagreed with.

Ichirou, who took a moment to recover from Hikaru’s outburst, extended his hand towards Hikaru and pulled her from her chair, and placed her on his lap, circling his arms around her waist.

“W-wait! Release me!”

Hikaru’s small frame struggled in Ichirou’s arms, she tried her best to run away from his grasp, or so it looked from outside.

Nom

“Kyaa~! Not my ear!”

Ichirou, while still gently nibbling on Hikaru’s ear, slowly raised his eyes to meet that of Kyoko’s. He glared at her, his gaze clearly telling her to leave, and this time, she didn’t defy him.

“I-I’ll go and wash my hands.”

Kyoko took the cue and exited the room, leaving the couple behind.

“I am sorry.”

Ichirou stopped nibbling Hikaru’s ears and whispered in a low yet sincere voice. Hikaru went stiff for a second before replying with a hesitant tone.

“I know. I am aware that I am being unreasonable here. I am being awfully clingy by behaving like this, but-”

“It’s fine. I am glad you were worried about me, and I am sorry for not responding. I should’ve messaged you.”

Hikaru’s eyes grew teary as she tried to recompose herself. She whipped her head around to say something, but before she could, her lips were sealed by Ichirou.

“Mmph, Ich-Ichirou!”

Ichirou released her after a deep kiss and smiled at the embarrassed Hikaru. She pouted and averted her gaze again, but this time for the exact opposite reason.

“I was going to give you your lunch, but I guess you don’t want it, huh?”

“Hi-Hikaru, listen, this is definitely not enough food for me, please?”

“No~ Not happening~ Fufufu~”

“Hey, now.”

“Fufufu~” 


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