Age is Just a Number – 9

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Two Words, Uncountable Sentiments.

“Today was fun!”

Arata exclaimed cheerily as they left their class after the last bell of the day signified their freedom.

“Yep.” 

Ichirou smiled with a book in his hands. 

“Do you have any plans tomorrow morning?”

Arata abruptly asked.

“Morning? Like what time?”

“Uh… From nine something to… noon, I guess?”

Well… I told Miyuki to pick me around lunch so it’ll be fine.

“Yep. I can make do. Wassup?”

“I thought we could all sit together and complete that physics assignment since the other classes have received the same one.”

“Hmm? Both of them got the same assignment as us?”

“Yeah. Kyoko-chan takes all the second-year classes, so the projects are the same. We are supposed to do it in a group as it is, so why not us four?”

“It’s not a bad idea. I don’t think she’d be stingy with the different sections.”

“Right!?”

“Fine, fine. I’ll be there, text me the location, and you are paying.”

“Uh, I was thinking we could do it your house…?”

“You are paying.”

“Sheesh, fine, fine.”

Arata exasperatedly waved his as he bid farewell to Ichirou and ran toward the soccer field.

Ichirou exited the school premises with his phone in his hands. He had just received a message from his girlfriend. A warm feeling welled up in his heart as he read the message with a faint smile.

[Good luck at work~ I will be waiting for you… Don’t be too late, or Mother will be worried.]

The message was followed by a pink-colored heart emoticon. Ichirou replied with a simple, ‘Thank you, I love you.’, and headed off to the parking lot. He grabbed his bike and soared through the streets as he made his way to his workplace.

Ichirou works at a small cafe on the outskirts of Shibuya’s commercial district. Though it is small, it is a very popular cafe with a rejuvenating atmosphere and friendly staff. One could say that it is an establishment where people would prefer to take a break from their daily burdensome lifestyle. Relating it to a bench in a valley, surrounded by beautiful mountains and a peaceful lake might not be an exaggeration.

The cafe is called ‘Countryside Coffee’ and it lives up to its name quite well. Since it is a cafe owned by a family, every worker except for the part-time staff is part of the owner’s family. Currently, it is operated by a couple in their forties and their two daughters. One of the daughters being a high-school senior and the other one being a high-school freshman. Quite the killer from a commercial standpoint if you ask men. As for the part-time staff, including Ichirou, five people were hired by the harmonious couple to cope with the constant overflow of customers.

Ichirou’s fellow part-time workers are a group of college students. The quartet of girls snatched four of the five places offered by the cafe, and Ichirou was lucky enough to land the last spot. 

However, in all honesty, luck wouldn’t be enough to explain how he was able to get the last job. The real reason he was hired was because of the four college students, though Ichirou isn’t aware of this reality, they manipulated the couple into accepting Ichirou since he was the only handsome and young applicant, even the two daughters chipped in and turned the situation in Ichirou’s favor. Now, Ichirou is surrounded by six girls every day during work, but Hikaru has no idea about this, and neither does Sumiko.

“Good work today, Ichirou-kun.”

“You too, Hasebe-san.”

Ichirou bowed towards one of the four college girls who came to see him off as he was leaving earlier than usual today. The girls were curious since they were aware that he lived alone, however, they held back and didn’t ask Ichirou as his mood had been quite pleasant from the very moment he entered, and the girls could tell that something was up with Ichirou.

Ichirou simply grabbed his bike and donned his black helmet before waving at the blushing Hasebe before taking off, leaving the roaring sounds from his bike’s engine behind to send goosebumps through Hasebe’s body. The black beauty darted away as sounds of changing gears and accelerating further filled the atmosphere.

Hasebe stood there, waving at Ichirou’s disappearing figure with a dazed expression. She had experienced this scene countless times, but she couldn’t help admire her junior’s sheer manliness as he left her in a storm of unflurried emotions.

“I wish my boyfriend was like him…”

Her soft voice filled with a distant melancholy was swallowed by the cheery noises coming from Countryside Coffee behind her.

Ichirou boarded the lift and softly pressed the circular button engraved with the number ‘7’. He turned to look at the huge mirror in the elevator and began grooming himself using his hands. He placed his bag on the floor and fixed his disheveled appearance caused by riding at high speeds.

Ichirou tucked in his shirt and straightened his jacket. He roughly moved his hands through his hair to help them settle down. He used a rough paper to wipe the dirt off of his shoes as he stomped multiple times to make sure there was no additional dirt that he might take into the house.

After confirming that he looked ‘presentable’, he retrieved a small pocket-sized bottle of deodorant and sprayed it all over his body. Almost simultaneously, he poured a bit of water from his water bottle on his handkerchief which Hikaru had placed in his pocket as always and wiped his face as thoroughly as he could.

“Ready.”

Ichirou exited the elevator after a final appearance check and walked over to the gate of Hikaru’s apartment. Standing in front of the gate, he resolved himself as he softly pressed the doorbell.

Ring~

The sound of the doorbell echoed from inside the house, followed by hurried footsteps that clearly belonged to Ichirou’s one and only. 

The door opened softly and Hikaru’s face popped from the small crack.

“Yes?”

She assumed that the visitor was someone else and instinctively asked since she was used to Ichirou entering the apartment directly using the keys. However, as soon as she realized the visitor’s identity, her face blossomed like a pretty flower as the corner of her lips practically reached her ears.

“Ichirou!”

Hikaru cheerily exclaimed with a jovial smile as she opened the door completely and hastily let Ichirou in.

“Mother has been asking for you for hours… I told her that you would come early today but she just wouldn’t listen…”

Hikaru retrieved Ichirou’s jacket, bag, and tie as they made their way into the house.

“…You should go and change first. Since it’s already quite late, how about we take a bath together once everything is over?”

“You didn’t take a bath?”

“No, I was busy preparing for everything since I arrived… And when I was done with the preparations, Mother and Father rang the bell so I couldn’t really find the time to do anything.”

Looking at Hikaru, she was still donned in her favorite pink apron which had the words ‘Best Wifey’ embroidered on it. Ichirou couldn’t help but feel a little guilty. She worked extremely hard both at school and at home… Glancing at the frail body which seemingly carried the weight of the world, he felt fuzzy in his heart as he immediately pulled Hikaru in his embrace.

“E-Eh!? I-Ichirou!?”

Hikaru, who had both of her hands occupied, couldn’t do anything to resist Ichirou’s sudden onslaught.

“Thank you.”

Softly stroking Hikaru’s lustrous pink hair, he whispered into her ears. Two words, uncountable sentiments. Ichirou gave a light peck on her cheek before separating from her and moving to the living room to greet Hikaru’s father.

As for Hikaru, she was standing there dazed with one hand holding Ichriou’s bag, and the other one holding his jacket and tie. Those two words chiming loudly in her ears, warming her up from the inside in the cold weather. Her lips involuntarily curled up as she moved her body towards the living room as well. A single thought moving through both of their minds.

I love this person with all my heart and soul.

At this moment, age is truly just a number.

Miyashiro Kanzaki, a man in his late forties with black hair and overbearing beard which covers the lower half of his face in a perfect and stylish design. His physique is quite healthy with no excess fat sticking out from anywhere on his body. A height of an inch or so taller than Ichirou, he resembles a veteran army man. At first glance, he seemed stern and serious with his bushy mustache and sharp eyes. However…

“Ichirou-kun… You are back, huh? Haru was worried about you. Shouldn’t you change first? Go, I don’t want you catching a cold. The AC is on, but still, better safe than sorry.”

His gentle and fatherly smile wasn’t quite discernible, buried within his immense facial hair.

“Yes, Uncle.”

Ichirou, who was painfully aware of Kanzaki’s true nature, smiled in response as he made his way to his bedroom to change clothes. 

On the way to the kitchen, he came across Hikaru’s mother, Miyashiro Haru. A woman in her mid-forties who still had the charm that could swoon men of all ages. One could say that it’s expected since she’s Hikaru’s mother, but still… Even now, her healthy brown hair reached her slim waist as she wore an apron and moved around the kitchen with high speeds and practiced movements.

Like mother, like daughter. I guess.

Looking at her appearance filled with love and warmth, Ichirou couldn’t help but leak an involuntary chuckle.

“Ah~! Ichirou-kun, you’re back!? I was quite worried, you know? Hikaru said that you’ll be coming early, but it still ended up being seven-thirty, you shouldn’t work so much… Hikaru was telling us about your grades, and she said that you can get into any university in the world with them. I am not saying that working is bad, on the contrary, I admire you working to help out Hikaru. However, do not overwork yourself, okay?”

“I understand, Aunty.”

Haru gave a sincere smile and lovingly brought her hand to Ichirou’s cheek and stroked it with a motherly expression.

“Oh, how many good deeds I must have performed in my life to have you as my son-in-law…”

“Aunty, don’t you think that’s thinking too far ahead?”

“Is it…? Fufufu~”

Following Ichirou’s change in attire, the family of four spent their time fruitfully eating together and enjoying Hikaru and Ichirou’s first anniversary. Hikaru had baked a chocolate cake as well, so they didn’t lack anything at all for this joyous celebration. 

“Congratulations!”


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