Chapter 2:

Episode 2- Group Hang Out

My Friend is a Harem Protagonist [Short]

April 16th, A Saturday

Saturday, the day of relaxation. I slept in a little, waking up at a standard time for a high school kid. No flags needed to be raised today, just Daichi and I hanging out. Atleast, that is what I wanted. Knowing the Rom Com gods it wouldn't take long for one of the girls to pop up and steal Daichi’s attention. The upside to Saturdays was that it was usually random who we ran into, which was exciting.

Daichi and I walked into the town mall. It was cool, a two layered strip mall with a glass ceiling above. During the winter the town would set up a large christmas tree in the food court, it was the second largest one in the town. In case you were curious, the first is set up in the town plaza, it's so massive you can see it from quite a ways away.

We walked into the bookstore and began to browse. I needed to pick up a few mangas, a few even ended here. However since I do not wish to get into legal trouble I shall rename all of these manga series. I grabbed the final copy of ‘We struggle to learn’ as well as ‘Fake Love’ . The first just ended while the other had years ago. Oh look, a copy of ‘The Stereotypical Sextuplets’ . I enjoy that one a good bit.

“You really like that stuff huh.” Daichi said, turning over a copy of ‘Cyan Flag’ and reading the back of it.

“Yeah I guess.” I said, flipping through a new series I hadn't seen before. ‘Cyan Box’, Different writer. I didn't explain to him that I use these for research to help him with his love life.

“Hm” Daichi said looking at the massive shelf for just Romance Manga. “If I wanted to read one which would you suggest?”

My eyes widened in a fraction of a heartbeat. This was perfect! Maybe he would start to open his eyes to romance if he read about it! “How about Dor.” I stopped sharply. The series I was about to suggest would lean more towards Maeko’s character type. Yes it was a good series but it still would give Daichi a feeling towards one over the other. In Fact his story pushed down Toshi’s character type. I had to consider this hard. “Can I get back to you on that?”

“Sure no problem.” Daichi laughed, putting the manga back on the shelf. “Let me grab my stuff, then let's get something to eat.”

I obliged, joining him as he picked up his mangas. Daichi shot a look at a book on city design, I gave a half smirk. “You should get it.” I said, eyeing the book with him.

“Wha, no that's okay.” Daichi said, waving his hand wildly.

I smiled, that was fine. “Alright alright, let's eat.” I took a memory of the book in my mind. Daichi's birthday was May 18th. He would enjoy it.

Oh since I brought it up I might as well explain everyone else's. Aoi’s is June 30th, Toshi’s is May 20th, Maeko’s is February 28th, and Saki’s is December 26th. Oh mine? It's December 6th, a pretty boring day if you ask me.

Surprisingly we both got to eat a whole meal together while joking around before the flag triggered. It was Saki, very odd to see her in such a public place with no one else. She was in her standard clothes, loose enough to not show her figure. She looked very comfy, I was a little jealous.

“Hey Saki!” Daichi said, noticing her after I stared for a bit too long. “What brings you here?” At this point we had finished eating and were moving back into the shopping center.

“Oh um, hi Saito-san.” Saki said, lowering her head due to her shyness. Probably didn't help that the events of yesterday were probably still fresh. “I'm just getting some stuff for my mom. What brings you two here?”

Why didn't she say hi to me? Dammit I thought we were friends already! She probably was just too engulfed by the boy she likes. Still sucks though.

“We were doing a little shopping.” Daichi said, raising his bag of books.

“Oh books!” She got excited at the sight.

“Just some manga today.” Daichi laughed. I was staying quiet, being a good friend.

“Oh okay.” Saki said, her happiness getting lower. She didn't like manga, she preferred to let her emotions go wild over the text or something like that. A ring sounded out, it was a bell chime? Saki lifted her phone and smiled at it. “Oh sorry.” She said, remembering where she was. “Maeko just texted me, she wants us to all hang out tomorrow. Oh why don't you join us!”

Invite me dammit!

Daichi looked over to me. “Both of us?” He asked.

Saki turned to me as if just noticing. “Oh yes of course I'm sorry Sawai-kun. You are more than welcome!”

“I'm not your junior! Sawai-san is fine, Kun means junior!” I said it instead of thinking it. I'll remember this Saki!

“Sorry sorry!” Saki said, her face flush. She didn't like confrontation or people getting upset at her. “Please come hang out with us Sawai-san.”

“That is better.” I nodded.

Daichi was laughing at the scene. “Oh who will all be there?” He asked.

“Oh um.” Saki looked at her phone and began to list of the names, raising a finger for each name. “Maeko, Aoi, Saki, Toshi, and Kioko.”

“DId you just count yourself?” I asked, I was a little ticked so I was more vocal.

“No!” Saki said sharply.

“Then why do you have five fingers up!” I called her out.

“I said Sawai, you, not Saki.” Saki said.

Liar! I'm officially off team Saki! Okay no im not im on no teams but still!

“Wait, Kioko?” I questioned, an idea growing in my mind.

“Yes, she has the day off so we're all hanging out.” Saki said. She was so timid and obviously the confrontation was wearing on her.

“Oh I would love to go!” I said in joy, shocking both Saki and Daichi. Normally I would stay out of events like this, even though I want to go, but this was a rare present. If you remember, just yesterday Toshi asked for love advice for her friend Kioko, now I get to have the two of them in the same place. This was a gold mine opportunity to mess with Toshi!

Luckily Saki was so timid that she didnt want to stay long, so we split up. Daichi and I returned to my house and hung out in my room, reading the mangas we just picked up.

“God Damnit!” I said, slamming my copy of ‘We Struggle to Learn’ on the ground.

“What!” Daichi said, jumping from my desk chair to his feet. I was reading on my bed.

“Nothing.” I said, picking up the book from the floor. The main character's friend was barely even in the ending! Yes he got a romance way early in the series but we still don't know anything about him besides that he was a pretty boy! Why was ‘Fake Love’ the only series that gave the main character's friend the attention he deserved! Manga writers out there take note!

Daichi’s phone chimed. “Oh it's the girls, they sent me the time we're all meeting up.”

I noticed my phone didn't ring. These girls suck I swear.

“What are we doing?” I asked, peeking at his phone.

“They wanna get clothes, go to an arcade, movie, karaoke. The works.” Daichi said, reading off the message. It was from Maeko, what a jerk.

“Sounds fun.” I said, swallowing my annoyance. Maybe she figured he would let me know?

“Stop worrying so much.” Daichi said, turning to me. “I'm sure they want you there.”

“I'm not worried about that.” I said, I felt a little down but it didn't matter. I feel bad for this Kioko girl, she was going to be brought into this Harem with no chance of winning, oh well this will be fun.

“Yesh.” Daichi said, leaning back in my chair. He typed away at his phone then closed the screen before I could see what he said. “Just wait, they will all be glad your there. So stop worrying.”

I took his word for it.

April 17th, A Sunday

The next morning me and Daichi walked to the entertainment district, not the ‘Entertainment District’ no we are at the one you don't have to sneak around in. We both dressed casually, nothing to really talk about. Pants, shirt, the works. Oh can't forget socks.

The girls arrived shortly after us. They came as a group. Aoi had her side ponytail, wearing a flowery blouse with a frilly skirt and long black socks. Toshi wore a sporty shirt with black leggings and jean shorts over them. Maeko wore a white blouse (I swear I saw her bra through it once in the past) with blue jeans, surprisingly casual for the rich girl. Saki was in comfy clothes again, loose pants and brown sweater that was slightly too long for her.

Between the four of them walked their friend, Kioko. All I could say is I was shocked. She stood out the most to me in this crowd, as she was beyond average. Light black hair cut above her shoulders, plain brown eyes, a fine figure, average height, average breast rating (Bish?). What was I seeing, this was the kind of girl who wouldn't be a part of the main cast. She was, like me.

“Thank you for waiting.” Aoi said. She always tried to speak first whenever we would meet up. “How do I look Daichi?”

“You look great” Daichi said, then nudged his head towards me. Holy crap did he actually compliment her without getting all worked up! What is going on.

Aoi stiffed sharply, then turned to me. “Heyya Riku, Im glad your here, how do I look?” She said it as if she was embarrassed. Seriously what was happening.

“You look pretty.” I said, I had no interest in her so it was fine.

“Why thank you.” Aoi said, then stepped back.

“Glad you could make it.” Maeko said to me. Huh?

“Wouldn't be a good time without you!” Toshi said with a big smile. What the hell?

“Told you we would be thrilled to have you.” Saki said to me. Am I dead?

“Oh this is Kioko.” Toshi said, waving her forward.

She casually waved a hand at Daichi and me. She wore a simple brown vest over a white long sleeve with gray pants. They looked good on her, just nothing that stands out too much.

“Im Daichi Saito.” Daichi said to her. “Please call me Daichi.”

“I will thank you.” Kioko said. “I'm Kioko Agawa, but you can call me Kioko.”

They all turned to me. I was still reeling from the strangeness of the other four. “Sorry, I'm Riku Sawai, but call me Riku please.”

“Riku huh.” Kioko said, thinking it over. “It's nice to meet you, Riku.” She said it with an odd sincerity.

We all began to walk, first stop was clothes. Aoi and Maeko led the group. Saki, Toshi, and Kioko followed behind, Daichi and I in the rear. This was my chance!

“Oh hey Kioko could I ask you something?” I said, I felt so excited, Toshi was right there.

Kioko turned to look at me. “Sure what is it?”

Wait! I had to lead into this. “You go to that all girls school right?

“Meio academy yes.” Kioko said with a nod.

“Are you a third year like us?” I asked, I felt my hand shaking with anticipation.

“Yep, I'll be graduating a few days before you all.” Kioko said. She wasnt showing anything, justa plain face, as if she didn't know where that was going.

“That's really cool, oh I was just wondering something.” I shot a quick look at Toshi, meeting her eyes before I returned them to Kioko. “Is there someone you're interested in?”

The group all stopped in an instant, every eye turning to me. Kioko tilted her head at me. “Not at this moment, why do you ask?” She said it as if the others had not stopped, though she did too. What was going on?

I shot a glance at Toshi, her jaw was on the floor. Yes she realized her mistake. I flashed her a cheeky smile before turning back. “Oh just wondering, since you go to an all girls school it probably makes it hard to meet a guy huh.”

Kioko tilted her head to the other side. “I guess so.”

There was a moment of awkward silence before Aoi spoke up. “Oh look! They got those cute spring drinks! We should all get one!” And with that logic we all began to move again. Daichi was called to Toshi’s side, and Kioko ended up falling back. We now walked slightly separate from the group. The girls all began to talk with Daichi, fighting for his attention.

“So.” I began, sipping at the spring drink Aoi recommended, it tasted very sweet. “You met them in the winter, I heard.”

“Yep, just a random encounter.” Kioko said, she held her drink in one hand, the other stirring with the straw.

“What do you think of them?” I asked, not sure where to go with this.

“Hm.” Kioko looked up from her drink and looked amongst her friends. “I like them, they are really good friends I would say. Thought they are romantically dense.”

I nearly spit out my drink in shock. “Im sorry?”

“Well look at them, they all are fighting over the same guy without realizing it.” Kioko said, waving her hand at them. We were far enough away that there was no risk of us being overheard.

“How did you know about that?” I asked.

“I have eyes.” Kioko said, turning to me and tilting her head as if it was obvious, which it was. “I knew they all liked someone, and when I asked about it they all came up with a similar description. I wasn't sure until I met you two, but once Daichi introduced himself I knew it was him.”

“Wow, that is surprising.” I said. “I'm so used to people not seeing it.”

“Why haven't you told them?” Kioko asked.

I swallowed before I responded, I've never said it out loud. “Because I want Daichi to have a real romance, I want him to realize his feelings all on his own.”

“I see.” She looked forward. “Your a good friend to him, and you have a good friend.”

I looked at her. “What do you mean?”

“Oh did he not tell you?” Kioko said, tilting her head again, was this her thing? “I guess you're not in the group chat, hold on.” She pulled out her phone, it was in a racoon case.

There was a group chat that I wasn't invited to!

She showed me the screen. It had Daichi’s number shown unregistered. His message read ‘Hey everyone Riku kind feels unwanted, he wont say it outloud though. Dont be mean to him okay? Hes a nice guy.’ I swallowed back my emotion for a moment. That idiot, don't worry about me too much. He didn't want me to know so that I believed that they all were acting nice genuinely, this was fine though.

“Yeah, I do have a good friend huh.” I said with a shaky smile. Crap, I'm almost crying in joy!

Kioko pulled her phone back and put it away, looking forward again. We had to stop so I could read the text so the rest of the group was farther ahead. We continued to walk.

“By the way, which one used my name to ask for advice?” Kioko asked, looking at the girls.

“Oh Toshi.” I said casually.

“That explains the look you shot her.” Kioko said. “So, did you realize what you said?”

“What do you mean?” I asked.

She looked at me, giving me that ‘isnt it obvious look’ “You kinda made it seem like you were interested in me.”

I turned to stone. She was right! Crap I pulled a stupid Rom Com mistake! That was why everyone stopped! Shit shit shit.

“It's okay, I figured it out.” Kioko said. She had kept walking but stopped to turn to me. “I'm sure I can sort it out with the girls later. But you should make sure to clear it up with your friend.”

“Thank you, I will.” I said, feeling a fool. “Sorry about that.”

“Don't apologize.” Kioko said, we had begun walking again. “It was kind of fun to see everyone so surprised. Besides I knew it wasn't a confession or anything.”

We had reached the clothes store, they all broke off in the massive department store, leaving Kioko and me alone again. We stood on the edge of the women's section awkwardly. The girls were pulling Daichi in all directions asking for advice on clothes. What a mess.

“Do you not want to look around?” I asked.

“Nah, don't want to get in their way.” Kioko said, watching the girls fly all over the place. “Plus this isn't my kind of style.”

“Ah right right.” I said. We stood there awkwardly for another few minutes.

“Art.” Kioko said, breaking the silence.

“I'm sorry?” I said, slightly shocked.

“I'm going for an Art major.” Kioko said, watching the chaos ensue, how did Saki get in that situation!

“Really? That's cool, what kind of art?” I asked.

“I enjoy drawing.” Kioko said. “I'm not too great with colors, but I'm getting better. I'm going to a local college once I graduate.”

“That's awesome.” I said, I meant it. I loved hearing about people's interests and their plans for the future.

“Most people think going to school for art is a bad idea.” Kioko said. Oh god what was Maeko doing! “But I want to learn more and do it for a career.”

I didn't know how to respond, this was a struggle to keep this conversation going.

“What about you?” Kioko asked.

A chill was sent up my spine. “I'm not too sure yet.”

“Oh I see.” Kioko said. Aoi what is that! “Isn't there something you love to do?”

I stayed quiet, wanting this topic to drop. Luckily she did drop it.

“Why aren't you interested in any of them?” Kioko asked. Toshi please no! “They are all great people, and Daichi can only pick one of them.”

I looked at her. “Im just not interested in them in that way, I see them as very good friends. Besides, it would complicate things for Daichi if I was.”

“You got a point there.” Kioko said, watching the carnage. “Who do you think he should get with?”

“Whoever he wants to.” I said. Daichi, please stop that. “He is a great guy, and deserves someone who will make him happy.”

“I agree.” Kioko said. “He seems nice, and they all like him. I just hope they can all sort out these emotions. I think when one confesses they all will confess, but who will be the first?”

“Money is on Aoi.” I said. “She's got the open personality for it.”

“I'm going with Saki, you'd be surprised what she will say when she opens up, plus I like rooting for the underdog.” Kioko said. “If not her, Maeko. She would do it like ‘Well someone has to like you, and that someone is me’ or something like that.”

“Was that a quote?” I asked.

“Yep, you know it huh. You like Romance manga?” She asked.

“Yeah, read a ton.” I laughed.

The carnage eventually ended, and we all moved to our next spot. At the arcade it was a similar scene. Kioko and I played some crane games and light gun games. Then we moved to Karaoke.

The girls all surrounded Diachi. Kioko and I sat on the outside together. We went to pick songs on our little tablet. Daichi had hit random for his song choice of course.

“Wanna do a duet?” Kioko asked me, her eyes focused on the tablet, giving away nothing.

“Huh? Oh sure why not, means I won't sing alone.” I said.

“That's why I asked. Singing in front of everyone is a little embarrassing, should be better if it's the two of us.” Kioko said, selecting a duet. She handed the tablet off to the others and waited for our turn.

Aoi sang a sappy love song, Maeko sang a casual song about parties, Toshi took a high energy anime opening, Saki went with a song with lots of instrumentals so she barely sang. Daichi wound up singing the same song as Toshi, what are the odds of that? We all cheered and laughed as they sang, I played with maracas. Finally Kioko and I got up to perform.

“Ooo you two are going to duet?” Toshi said with a sneaky smile. Was she trying to get back at me from earlier?

“Go Riku go!” Aoi called out.

The song started, my lines in red hers in green. It was a goofy song with lots of stupid jokes mixed in. I'm glad it wasn't something sappy. It was fun, we acted over the top and were laughing while we sang. At some point we stopped singing just our line and sang both lines together whenever we could. By the end of it we were a sweaty mess and had to chug down our drinks. We sat out the second round of songs and just enjoyed everyone who overacted everything way more than we did.

“That was fun.” Kioko laughed. She had a very pretty laugh, I liked it.

We finished up for the day, all splitting off to go our separate ways. I let Daichi and Aoi walk ahead of me. I eventually broke off from them when I told them there was something I wanted to check out, there wasn't anything. Maybe he and Aoi would actually make some progress? Probably not.

I now sat on a bench, a cold soda in my hand. The sun was setting over the horizon, a chill began to slide into the town. This is fine, It was fun.

“Riku.” A voice said, I turned towards where I had come form to see Kioko. She was panting a little.

“Oh hey, what's up?” I asked.

She had her hands on her knees but straightened up. “I want your number.”

I was confused, but got to my feet so she didn't have to look down on me. “Why?” I asked.

She gave me a look then sighed. “I want to help you. I was walking with Toshi and was explaining what happened earlier. She told me how you always offered her advice on romance. You are trying to help them admit their feelings right?”

“Yeah, just trying to give them a gentle nudge in the right direction I guess.” I said, a little embarrassed.

“Then I want to help. I care about my friends too and want to see them succeed, so if I can help in anyway let me know.” Kioko said.

I smiled, then rushed up to her. “For real! That is great, thank you I could use the help!”

“Well, I also.” She began, then looked away. “I want to talk to you more, it was fun.”

I pulled out my phone, an accomplice! This was fantastic! “Here, this is my number, text me whenever.” I said.

She smiled, pulling her phone out and inputting the number. “Thank you.” she turned to walk away, her phone covering her face.

I turned to start heading home, Daichi and Aoi were probably far enough ahead now. My phone vibrated, I pulled it out. A new number, its text read ‘Its Kioko, thank you for today, I had a lot of fun.’

I turned back to Kioko, she was facing me with her face still covered by the raccoon case. She turned sharply and hurried off. I responded. ‘Me too, it was fun’ nice and simple.