Chapter 6:

Episode 6- Greenhouse Connection

My Friend is a Harem Protagonist [Short]

May 7th, A Shiny Saturday

You may wonder to yourself, why am I up so early on a saturday? You see, I am prepared. I did my morning routine of showering, making breakfast, and all other miscellaneous things, now I sit in my room reading a novel. No Romantic book, just a mystery novel. Just like I expected, my phone began to ring.

“Hey Aoi.” I said casually, using my thumb as a bookmark.

“Riku!” Aoi said over the phone. “Daichi is coming over today can you come over and help me set up early?”

I sighed. “Aoi, I'm also coming over today, remember? We were all studying together?”

This meetup had spawned when Aoi realized she was struggling with science. Daichi suggested we all get together to study, and Aoi volunteered her house for a study session. Aoi had also asked Kioko to join us which helped with any plotting I may do.

“Yes I know!” Aoi said, was that a vacuum turning on? “I want you to come early and help me set up.”

“I live right next to Daichi, so i'm guessing he thinks we will walk there together.” I said, reopening my book to finish the page I was on. “If I came early on my own it might give him the wrong idea. Maybe ask Kioko?”

“Oh good idea!” Aoi said, the vacuum shutting off. “I better get a hold of her soon then. Thanks Riku.” The line cut out. I sighed.

I finished the chapter of my book and set it down on my desk. I picked up the workbooks that we would be studying from and flipped through them. I already had my work done and I wasn't really struggling so I had nothing to gain personally from this study group. However! This could be a chance for them to make progress!

Daichi met me outside his house. His bag looked massive, he must be behind. He wore his casual clothes, nothing worth mentioning, and we went off. The air had some moisture to it, probably from the rain the night before. Even with that, it was so bright out that I could forgive the slight annoyance.

“So what do you need to study today?” I asked.

“I'm a bit behind on History.” Daichi said, rubbing the back of his head in embarrassment. “You?”

I thought about it for a moment. Math was Daichi’s strong suit, and English was Aoi’s, so I had to pretend it was something else. “Japanese, I just got to do some touch ups though don't worry.” It was a lie. Like I said I wasn't struggling anywhere in particular.

“Oh really.” Daichi said. “I'm alright at it if you need my help.” I know he was alright at it, I usually help him study the night before a big test. “Oh did you hear? They are having the overnight trip in June this year.”

“For real?” I said, panic rising inside. Yes, the overnight trip! A true horror. It has the chance to cause a large amount of change in this Rom Com, but whether it is positive or negative is up in the air. “Where are we going?”

“Okinawa.” Daichi said cheerfully.

Okinawa, island, beaches, oh Rom Com gods help me. Could this be the powerful beach episode I heard so much about? This will be a disaster!

Aoi’s house was only a few streets away. Its front was that of a Flower shop labeled ‘Shima Floral’s’ it was run by Aoi’s mother. Past the front was their actual house, and past that was the moderately sized greenhouse that they grew flowers from. We walked along the fence to their front door and I spotted Kioko’s bike inside the gate.

“Guess she's already here.” I said out loud.

Daichi gave me a smug look. “You excited?”

“Not even.” I said, waving him away. I still hadn't said anything to Kioko since the day I sent her that random message, I hated how awkward I felt about it. But I had to sit with her now.

Aoi answered the door to let us in. Her mom was working at the shop so she would leave us be for the time being. In their living room area was a Chabudai. Four cushions were set up around it, one already claimed by Kioko. She was dressed in a nice button up dress with a wavy design along with long white socks. Across the table was claimed by Aoi’s pile of study material, a smart move. She made it so no matter what Daichi had to sit next to her, probably Kioko’s suggestion.

“Sit wherever.” Aoi said robotically. She was so bad at pretending.

I took my seat and gave Kioko a soft smile. Daichi took his seat gladly. Aoi brought out tea for us, green tea at that. Green tea was Daichi’s favorite. We all pulled out our books and cracked them open. Snacks were already in the center of the table, cookies and crackers with cheese. Gotta say the spread was pretty good to me.

Aoi took her seat and began to study, yet she kept looking up and darting her eyes between us all. She was too hyperactive to sit still for long. “Woh Kioko, what are you studying there!” she said surprising Daichi and I something fierce.

Kioko lifted her eyes from her book. She had her hair pulled behind her ears so it didn't fall in her face, it looked good. “Japanese.” she lifted the textbook for us to see, it was the same as mine.

“Woh no way!” Aoi said with fake surprise. “Does anyone need help with that?” It was robotic.

My eyes darted to Daichi, there was no way he could have let them know about what I said. “Daichi.” I said calmly. “Could I see your phone?”

HIs eyes grew wide. “What why?” He asked in surprise.

“Oh come on buddy let me see, you scared I'll see something I shouldn't?” I was leaning over the table towards him. My eyes like a wolf about to pounce on a rabbit.

“Of course not!” Daichi said, his eyes darting towards Aoi. I was out played! They out-schemed the schemer! I would not forget this!

“Shouldn't we focus on studying?” Kioko said, making me return to my seat.

“Yeah you're right.” I said with a sigh. “Aoi, you need help with science right? Daichi, can you lend her a hand? You know she can't focus for crap on her own.”

“That’s rude!” Aoi said loudly.

“But true.” I rebuked.

Daichi scooted his seat closer to hers. Their shoulders touched as he began to explain things. Good work Daichi.

A few minutes passed as I returned to fake studying, suddenly I felt something touch my left shoulder. I turned to spot Kioko close, her book open, it was social studies not Japanese now.

“Can you help me with this?” Kioko asked, pointing to a question. I looked down at the question but my peripherals betrayed me. From this angle I could look down the V of her dress slightly, focus was hard but I managed. I rattled off an explanation to solve the answer and she nodded in understanding, using the knowledge to create her own answer. “And what about this one?” I began to explain the next one, it was easier to focus this time. Was she not good at social studies or something? She had so many questions one after the other.

After a few minutes of this, the hyperactive squirrel spoke up. “Hey Riku, I was wondering about something.”

I looked up at Aoi. “Sure what's up?”

“What's up with that Hara girl?” Aoi asked.

“Himiko?” I asked. “She just wanted to ask me some stuff, that's all.”

I felt the pressure on my left shoulder lighten, Kioko had returned to her original spot. I guess she got the information that she was looking for to solve the rest on her own. Glad to be of help.

Aoi gave Kioko a look then pouted. “What kind of stuff?”

I tensed up. I felt embarrassed to talk about the topic. “Just, stuff. Shouldn't you be studying?”

Aoi began to speak. “Oh come on tell me.”

“It's probably not that important.” Daichi chimed in. He knew about what Himiko was talking about. “Though it's probably not what you think. Don't force it out of him if he doesn't want to talk about it.”

Aoi calmed down. “Sorry.”

There were several awkward moments before Kioko spoke up. “Hey Riku, what about this one?” Suddenly the pressure was back on my left shoulder as she flung herself over. The tension around Aoi vanished after that. That was when I noticed something.

“Hey that vase, it's the one from your drawing Kioko right?” I stated.

Kioko blinked up at me then looked at the vase. “Yeah, it is.”

“Oh wow you draw Kioko?” Daichi asked, Aoi still pressed against his shoulder.

This started a whole discussion that distracted from the studying that Aoi desperately needed. I decided to try and return it back on track.

“Hey Aoi, you are wanting to do better in science to get into school for botany right?” I asked.

“Nope.” Aoi said quickly. “I'm staying here and helping my mom run the shop.”

To say I was surprised would be an understatement. I swear she said she wanted to do Botany? Was I wrong.

“Wait, you told me you were going to that school in the city for Botany?” Kioko questioned.

“Yeah I was.” Aoi said. “But I decided that I didn't want to work in some lab, I enjoy working here. Seeing the happy customers after I make an arrangement for them. My mom even let me help on a big wedding order a few weeks ago. It just fills me with a well of satisfaction every time.”

“That's great Aoi!” Daichi said. “I'm glad you are finding your own path, I'm a little jealous since I still haven't picked mine yet.”

How could he talk about it so easily? Was it because he did know what he wanted to do, he just didn't know that he knew? Shit my mind was getting hazy again.

“I'm glad to see your doing better Kioko.” Daichi said, drawing me back to the conversation that had continued on without me. Kioko had returned to her original seat.

“Thank you.” She said with a little bow.

“Yeah it could have been worse, why were you out in the rain so long anyways?” Aoi asked.

Kioko shot me a look. “No reason, just from me riding home on my bike.”

“You live super close to your school though.” Aoi questioned. “You'd have to be out for a while to get as sick as you were.”

“Maybe.” Kioko said. She was looking at the table, reading the text on her work book.

“Oh hey, you guys wanna see my greenhouse? I got these awesome flowers growing!” Aoi said, getting to her feet. What happened to studying?

“Sure.” Daichi said, getting to his feet.

Kioko lifted her head. “I'll be there in a minute, just wanna finish this section first.” She then lowered her head. “Go one ahead, I'll catch up.”

Aoi gave her a pouting look before it looked like a lightbulb came on in her head. “Alright, Riku you stay and help Kioko so you guys can look even faster!”

Aoi just made a move to make it where she and Daichi would be alone! I would not let her bravery go to waste.

“No problem, you two have fun.” I said, shooing them off with my hand.

They walked off, Daichi following while they chit chatted. I decided to look over my book, they needed as much time as I could reasonably give them. I just had to make sure Kioko didnt finish her section too quickly.

“Don't worry I am taking my time.” Kioko said so suddenly I almost collapsed.

“What, what do you mean?” I stuttered out.

Kioko sighed. “Were giving Aoi time right, did you forget I said I was going to help with this?”

“I see, you thought about it faster than I did.” I said with a laugh.

Kioko’s pencil tapped and slashed across the workbook. She was actually doing her work, I was quite impressed. I decided to let her work on it and turned back to my book. It wouldn't be bad to review what I already knew. An awkward air hung around us, I needed to break the ice. It was killing me!

“So, I'm glad you are feeling better.” I said, not looking up from my book.

The pencil sounds stopped suddenly. “Thank you.” Kioko said. There was more silence as the pencil began to move again. “The girls came by the other day.” Kioko said suddenly.

“Oh yeah?” I said, still looking over the text even though I had it mostly down. “They help take care of you?”

“Would you trust Maeko to take care of you?” Kioko said, the pencil still writing.

“Fair point, but the others would be good at it.” I said, turning the page as if the words held value.

“Toshi was trying to get me up and exercising like I pulled a muscle or something.” Kioko began. “Saki spent a long time trying to remember a remedy for a cold she read about a few years ago, then was too nervous to say it to the others. Aoi made me some soup, but she spilled it on Maeko by accident. Maeko had no idea what to do so she just talked to me. Surprisingly I think she was the best one in the situation.”

I chuckled a little. A memory of when Daichi was sick popped into my head. I avoided going over but may have sent them a text that he wasn't feeling well. I then just watched the girls come and go from his house with different defeated looks.

“They are great but I wish you were there.” Kioko said, her pencil still going.

I looked up, Kioko was still looking at her workbook. “Why is that?” I asked, a lump in my throat.

Kioko didnt answer for a moment. “Because you probably would have kept them in line, or at least given me the medicine that I had across the room that the others seemed to ignore. Well Saki didn't, she was just too scared to say anything with all the noise.”

“I see.” I said, looking back down. I was a little disappointed. “Well, next time your sick I will come over and take care of you if it helps.”

The pencil stopped. I looked up to see Kioko staring into my soul. “You mean it?” She said suddenly, tilting her head to the side.

“Sure.” I said. “I'm sure all the commotion didn't help with the recovery. I'd make sure you at least were taken care of even if there were all the others around.”

Kioko just stared for a moment. “I'm glad, I will have to take you up on that offer. Though you should know where I live first.”

“Oh yeah well you could just tell me it when you feel ill.” I said casually, breaking eye contact.

“No, I think it would be a good idea for you to come over from time to time.” Kioko said powerfully.

What? Why? Huh?

“What? Why? Huh?” I said aloud, mimicking my inner voice.

Kioko tilted her head the other way. “Why not?”

“I guess you got me there.” I said, nodding in agreement. “Wait! No you don't! I need a reason!” I spoke up for comedic effect.

She sighed, then looked back down at her workbook, pencil running across it. “I'm not very good at texting.” She began. “I struggle to explain my ideas in such limited text. It's even harder for me to understand others when it's text. More often than not when I text people I overthink everything they say because I just don't know what they are trying to convey.”

Kioko paused for a moment before she continued. “I would much rather talk in person, even over the phone it feels so disconnected though I can do it.” She shot a glance where Daichi and Aoi had fled. “It would be a good way to discuss ideas for our friends. I have a few ideas we could try.”

“Oh I see!” I said aloud. “You got a good point, meeting up to plan could work well, i'm all for it.”

Kioko looked up sharply, a smile crossing her face. “Really? Okay, why not next weekend?”

“Sorry not that weekend.” I said apologetically. “What about the week after?”

Kioko nodded several times. “Sure sure, but why not next week?”

“Daichi’s birthday is on the 18th.” I explained. “I gotta do some shopping, plus the girls will need some help too.”

Kioko tilted her head. “Oh I see, I think I remember Maeko mentioning plans for that.”

“Yeah knowing her she will want to have the party at her place like last year.” I laughed.

“Do you have some sort of plan for that day with the girls?” Kioko asked curiously.

“Oh, that day is kinda different.” I said with a goofy smile. “Its the one day I pick favorites.”

Kioko tilted her head more, she would get a kink in her neck if she weren't careful. “Who?” She asked.

“Saki.” I said. “You'll see, but I do whatever I can to help her that day.”

“Why?” Kioko asked, not adding a lot to the conversation.

“Well.” I began. “I don't want any of them to have regrets, and I want to make sure Daichi has a good birthday. The other girls can give him gifts and whatever a lot easier than Saki, so I help her give her a gift. Plus, she has the other thing that I'll be helping her with again.”

“Other thing?” Kioko questioned.

“Oh just wait.” I said with a stupid smile. “It'll be great, you could probably help with it too.”

Kioko nodded. “What should I get him for his birthday? Since I may end up going to this party.”

“He would want you there.” I said. “Daichi likes to have people there, he probably would even let Ren come.”

“Who?” Kioko questioned.

“You'll meet him.” I laughed. I pulled out my phone, opened my bookmarks on the web browser and copied it, sending it to Kioko. “Just get him that, it'll be good.”

“A pencil case?” Kioko said, holding out her raccoon cased phone.

“Yeah, his constantly go missing.” I said with a sigh. “The insides are left out wherever he left it, but the case itself just vanishes!”

“Do you have anything to do with that.” Kioko said with knowing eyes.

“Only the first time!” I said quickly. “All the other times I have no idea! I know the girls aren't doing it so I don't know who is!”

“You steal from your friend?” Kioko said, her eyes narrowing.

I looked away sharply. “When I do I return it, however when I took the case it kinda just disappeared. I still don't know what happened to it.”

Kioko sighed. “Fine, Saturday the 20th come to my place okay?”

“Sure thing.” I said. “Oh yeah, we got an overnight trip to Okinawa in June, I think it was early in the month. If you got ideas for what to do there let me know, I'm going to be in crisis mode around then.”

Kioko’s eyes widened. “Okinawa, that sounds like a lot of fun!” She said, leaning towards me from the corner of the table. Her dress was a little loose on her and it made it hard to focus on her face. “You gotta text me about it! Send pictures too!”

“How about I just call you?” I said. Kioko suddenly shot back in surprise. “You said you don't like texting, if that's the case I'll call you if you want. Though I'll text to see if it's a good time to call you.”

Kioko flung back forward. “Yes Yes I would like that alot.” She said rapidly.

“Great, sounds like a plan.” I laughed. “Should we check on them?”

Kioko paused, her energetic expression returning to a neutral one. “Probably soon, though I would like them to have a bit more time.”

“Good point.” I said. “By the way, what were they planning?”

“Oh with the Japanese stuff?” Kioko asked. She looked at the door out to the backyard. “Aoi was looking at her phone and asked what I needed to study. I told her I was just about caught up in Japanese and she got super excited and said to start with that.”

“Weird.” I said. “I didn't even see Daichi text it to her, though he is good at speed texting.”

Kioko eyed me for a moment. She sighed a long tired sigh. “Oh.” Kioko said suddenly. “Can you help me with a few questions?” She got close to me again.

We filled in the questions for a while, until suddenly Daichi and Aoi returned. The two looked as if they had an experience, why did Daichi have dirt under his collar? The Rom Com gods only know what happened in there, or anyone that is reading the manga I guess.

Aoi’s mom had given us lunch, she is a nice lady who likes when Daichi and I come over. We have known her for years so it makes sense. After studying for most of the day we went to Aoi’s living room and played some video games. This was a fighting game with characters from different game franchises. Surprisingly Kioko was terrible at it, though she was always my teammate so I helped make up for it.

Kioko had picked up the goofy looking characters. Daichi took the standard hero with sword characters. Aoi liked the massive bruiser type characters that liked to annoy me. I just hit random and let luck pick my choices. It was a fun time.

Seriously though Kioko why the potted plant character? Oh well, she looked happy playing it and was giggling every time she attacked. She did the arm movements of someone who rarely if ever has played a video game. Aoi was similar but you could tell she was more reacting to try and move closer to Daichi. Daichi just kind sat in place, I was leaned forward intently cause this stupid lizard king that Aoi was playing was pissing me off.

Once we had finished we all went our separate ways. I offered to walk Kioko home, but since she had a bike it was faster for her to go alone. Aoi and Daichi both gave me smug looks after I offered. Weirdos. Daichi and I walked back together.

“That was fun.” Daichi said with a smile.

“Yeah, you gotta work on your skills though.” I said.

“Probably.” Daichi said. “Gotta say, Aoi surprised me with her clothes, it was cute.”

“Kioko’s dress was cute too.” I said in reply. “It suited her really well.”

“Yeah true.” Daichi said.

I stopped suddenly in place. A thought suddenly surged in my head. What was Aoi wearing? Why was I so focused on Kioko’s clothes?

“Oh yeah.” Daichi began, turning to face me. “I was wondering about something.”

I looked up at him.

“What are you going to do about what Himiko said?” Daichi asked.

My throat dried. I stayed quiet.

“I see.” Daichi said, turning forward. “Well, I think that it's your choice. I can't force you, when your ready you will know what to do.”

I looked at the ground. “I think I know what I'm going to do.”

Daichi smiled back at me. “Yeah, I know that.”

May 9th, a standard Monday

Himiko and I sat in the student council room. It was a little hot today, or maybe it was my nerves. Himiko eyes me from behind her glasses. I was the one that asked to meet, yet I was freezing up.

“Um.” I began, then swallowed hard. “I would like some help.”

Himiko broke her serious expression and smiled ear to ear. “Is that so?”

“Where do you recommend we start?” I asked.

Himiko got up, crossed the room to a cabinet, and pulled out many sheets of paper. “I say we start with some pamphlets of popular careers, see if any spike your interest and work from there.”

“Alright.” I said as the papers were presented to me. I began to shuffle through them. I didn't know what changed my mind, I just thought it was time I started considering my future. Why is it that when I thought of my future Kioko in her button up dress flashed in my head?

Oh gosh I'm presenting the next episode! Well um, im Saki Yoshikawa, I like chicken ramen in a cup, herbal tea, and japanese literature. Huh? What do you mean this isn't about me? Oh just talk about the next episode right. Next time its Daichi’s birthday, but but how am I supposed to give him his present? Maybe Riku can help me! Riku! Hu? Where'd he go? Next time, Just Give It To Him. Hope to see you there!