Mori Aikko said in a subdued voice, "I have to go to Sapporo City."
"What for? Are you going there to see your grandmother?"
Mori Aikko nodded her head.
"I'm already late. I wanted to see you before leaving for the airport. I have to go now."
"Let's go. I will take you to the airport. Which airport are you heading to? Is it Narita International Airport? Or Haneda Airport?"
Gun-Ho picked up Mori Aikko's luggage and walked out of the condo. When Gun-Ho couldn't find any cab around the condo complex, he called for one.
"In the cab, Mori Aikko leaned on Gun-Ho's shoulder without saying a word. Gun-Ho swept a few strands of her hair and held her small hands.
"Ganbare mashou (Cheer up)!"
Mori Aikko smiled weakly.
Gun-Ho noticed that Mori Aikko kept checking the time with her watch; she was probably worried about missing the flight. Gun-Ho was 15 years older than her, and in his eyes, Mori Aikko always looked cute whatever she did. He felt an urge to kiss her on the cheek, but he suppressed that urge since they were not alone in the cab. As a matter of fact, the taxi driver seemed to be curious about the relationship of his customers who were sitting in the rear seat. He kept glancing at them through the rear-view mirror.
Fortunately, Gun-Ho and Mori Aikko arrived at the airport on time.
"Have a safe trip."
Mori Aikko threw herself into Gun-Ho's arms. Gun-Ho tapped her back.
"Take care of yourself, okay? And just call me if you need me."
Gun-Ho took out an envelope from the inner pocket of his jacket.
"You might need this for medical bills and stuff."
Mori Aikko again smiled weakly. She took the envelope and put it in her purse.
After seeing off Mori Aikko at Haneda Airport, Gun-Ho came back to Tokyo. He was thinking of taking a nap in the condo in Daikanyama where no one would be, and then he decided to stay in the New Otani hotel. After checking in to the hotel, Gun-Ho walked out to the street.
He thought of going to the Korean restaurant that President Choi was running, for a second, and when he realized that it was too early for dinner, he decided to spend some time at Roppongi Hills which was in a close distance from Akasaka. He went into a shopping mall and started window shopping.
"I want to buy a present for President Ji-Yeon Choi. She had been helping me a lot, and I don't feel like I have shown her my appreciation to her properly"
Gun-Ho picked a pearl necklace which was popular among middle-aged women.
Gun-Ho arrived at Ms. Choi's restaurant around 7 pm. President Choi was not there. Instead, someone else was sitting at the cashier's counter.
"Is President Choi not coming today?"
"She will. Is she expecting you?"
"No. I just came from Korea, and I was wondering if I could see her today."
After sitting at a table, Gun-Ho ordered a bowl of beef bone soup. It seemed that a few international students were occupying the table behind Gun-Ho. They were eating Japanese beefWagyu. Hearing them singing the 'happy birthday to you' song, Gun-Ho thought that it must be someone's birthday at that table.
"Whoa! President Goo! To what do I owe this pleasure?"
When Gun-Ho lifted his head, the restaurant ownerMs. Ji-Yeon Choiwas standing in front of his table. She was wearing a colorful dress.
"A friend of mine is having his wood carving art exhibition in an art gallery in Yokohama City. I came to visit his exhibition."
"Did you see Mori Aikko?"
"Yes, I did. She left for Sapporo City today."
"Her grandmother is in the hospital."
"Oh, I see."
"You will spend the night alone then. Are you going back to the condo in Daikanyama?"
"No. I already checked into the New Otani hotel."
"Well, staying there will cost you, but I think it's better that way. Since you are a married man now, you should be good to your wife."
"Haha. I'm doing good to my wife."
"You should try harder."
"I stopped by Roppongi Hills before coming here, and I bought this necklace for you."
Gun-Ho gave a small box wrapped with a ribbon to President Choi.
"Oh, wow. Thank you, but why do you give this to me? You should give it to your wife, or to Mori Aikko."
"Haha. This necklace would look good on a middle-aged lady. You've been helping me a lot, and I feel like I haven't done much for you in return."
"Don't say that. Thank you so much."
President Choi made a call to someone.
Mama-san? She was probably calling Mama-san Segawa Joonkko.
"President Gun-Ho Goo is here."
"What? Are you asking if President Goo met Mori Aikko? Yeah, they met. But, Aikko had to leave for Sapporo City because her grandmother is ill. President Goo took her to the airport."
President Choi and Mama-san talked for a while over the phone before ending the call. They talked in Japanese really fast.
"Did you just talk with Mama-san? What did she say?"
"She wants to thank you for coming to see Mori Aikko at the right time."
"Is that it?
"Mori Aikko is having a hard time these days. She is having an issue with the Taiwanese movie shooting. The leading actor, who is from Hong Kong, got off from the movie after arguing about the payment."
"What would happen then?"
"Since they stopped filming, for now, that will affect Mori Aikko who is just one of the supporting actresses. Did you give her some money when you saw her off earlier, so she has something to use for transportation or any expenses?"
"Yes, a little bit."
President Choi smiled broadly and said, "That's why Mama-san loves the fact that Mori Aikko is seeing you, President Goo."
"Is Mori Aikko having a financial hardship?"
"She might as well face it if she doesn't get paid by the film production company. She gave up all other dance performance opportunities to be part of that movie. Mama-san is probably not satisfied with Mori Aikko's situation either since she can't make money from Mori Aikko. That's understandable given the fact that she invested a lot of money in growing her geishas including Mori Aikko."
Gun-Ho thought that he should have given more money to Mori Aikko earlier.
The next day, Gun-Ho headed to Yokohama City. After getting off at Minatomirai Station, Gun-Ho went to the art gallery.
There was a huge banner of Mr. Sakata Ikuzo's wood carving art exhibition.
"The exhibition is being held on the second floor, I see. I'm supposed to meet with President Jeong-Sook Shin and Mr. Yoshitake Matsuda here at noon. I wonder if they are here already."
Gun-Ho walked up to the second floor. At the entrance, President Jeong-Sook Shin and Mr. Yoshitake Matsuda were conversing.
"Oh, you are here, sir."
"Mr. Yoshitake Matsuda, long time no see."
Gun-Ho had a handshake with Mr. Yoshitake Matsuda.
"Why are you standing here? Why don't you go inside?"
"Haha. We've already had a round. It's really good. I've never seen art pieces like those before. Mr. Yoshitake Matsuda said he was amazed as well."
"Well, let me have my tour then."