Chapter 7:

Episode 7- Just Give It To Him

My Friend is a Harem Protagonist [Short]

May 18th, Daichi’s big day.

I awoke as normal, went through my normal activities, and sat at my kitchen table. I was sorting through pamphlets about potential career paths and possible college options. I had the grades to apply for most fields, so my options were wide. In that regard I was lucky, alot of people were limited based on their grades or physical ability, but I didn't have that restriction.

And yet.

Somehow, having all these options made it even harder to lock down one thing in particular. I started with the big ones first. Doctor, I don't want someone's life in my hand so I passed, Teacher was a similar story. Computers was a large industry with a lot of options but I didn't know for sure. Just too much, and yet nothing that screamed for me to do it.

My parents sat at the table and ate my morning breakfast and chit chatted. They turned on the weather channel, sunny today like it said it would be the last two weeks. All the stars were aligning for a good day.

“Oh I'll be home late.” I said absently.

“Yeah it's Daichi’s birthday I figured you would be.” My dad laughed.

“Where are you guys celebrating this year?” My mom asked.

“Were doing it at Maeko’s house again.” I said, downing the last of my eggs. “She usually does birthday parties.”

Normally Maeko arranged any big events on her family estate, well except mine. That was from lack of her trying though, I just didn't tell them when it was last year till it already passed. Gotta say Maeko looked genuinely mad at me for not telling her soon (She found out at Saki’s party). Knowing them, they would try to have one for me this year, or maybe they will forget and Daichi and I can do something. Who knows, December was a long way off.

I packed the wrapped present into my school bag where it blended nicely, then left for school. The air felt nice, and the sun was shining overhead. This was perfect, barely a cloud in the sky. This was the luck of a May birthday, not like the snowy December birthdays.

“Morning.” Daichi said, emerging from his house.

“Happy birthday sir.” I said, giving him a light slap on the back. “Big old 18”

“Yeah, it feels weird to be 18,” Daichi said with a laugh.

“You're a man now.” I laughed. “Gotta do man things, like taxes.”

“Is that specifically a man thing?” Daichi asked.

“Obviously, women also do taxes but, less manly.” I joked.

“How do you do taxes manlyly.” Daichi said, making up a word.

“I don't know, while lifting dumbbells?” I guessed. “Drinking a protein shake? Being crushed by crippling depression?”

“That last one sounds very different from the others.” Daichi said, a little surprised.

“Well if you are doing taxes you probably have some crippling depression.” I rebuked.

“I feel like that is a strange generalization, yet applies.” Daichi laughed.

Aoi met up with us, not running full speed into Daichi. She wished him a happy birthday and gave him a present. She was good at this part, didn't even get embarrassed. I guessed right, Aoi got him a hoodie, gray with white strings.

As we walked on, I spotted Saki hiding around a corner. She was the one I was worried about. She had a wrapped present in her hand, and it looked like she was steeling herself to come out. She didn't.

Toshi and her group of softball players ran past us, Toshi offering a happy birthday. If she had the present on her she would give it to Daichi, but it was most likely in her school bag in the locker room. Maeko caught Daichi in the classroom.

“I got this, I hope you enjoy it.” Maeko said, a surprisingly nice gesture from her. Yep, A really nice necktie. She had slowly filled his closet with nice clothes on account of wanting to marry him. Since Maeko’s family owned a large business she needed a significant other to look the part.

Class went on till lunch, where Saki was unsurprisingly absent. I got up to leave, but I caught Toshi giving Daichi her present. I had to stop in surprise, a surprisingly good gift. A photobook, it had a collection of photos from all the time we had spent together, labeled nicely. This had to have taken hours! Good on ya Toshi, the latest entry was of when we went to karaoke. Kioko and I were in the back, singing awkwardly. It was nice.

I left the room, and walked towards the home economics class. It would be empty currently, well under normal circumstances it would. But not today, today I found Saki in here, again. She had only been dismissed from class for like five minutes, how did she make such a mess!

“Oh hey Saki.” I said as if I didnt know she would be there.

She turned to me quickly, her sense of shyness gone. “Riku Riku!” She said quickly, her voice in a panic. “Please help me!”

I gave a smile, grabbed one of the aprons hanging from the rack, and went to look over her work. It was a disaster. Flour was spilled everywhere, the measuring tools were not even touched, the mixing bowl looked like a crime scene. You think she would have learned after last year, but nope.

“Your practicing before the big show?” I asked, looking at her recipe. It was for a cake.

Saki nodded up and down, embarrassed. “I just can't get it to work, I don't want a repeat of last year.”

I had shivers of fear, last year wasn't a good time. I still had nightmares. Thank god I tasted the cake before she presented it to anyone. The things I do for my friend.

“Maybe start by. Why is the chili powder out?” I asked.

“For flavor, it adds a kick!” Saki stated proudly.

I karate chopped her head. “No! This is a cake!”

Saki held her head, looking up at me with tears in her eyes. Yeah I overreacted a little. I patted her head and apologized, I just did not want to experience whatever she was making.

“Let's clean this up to start, then start over. We can make a practice one with just cupcakes. Sounds good?” I said.

Saki nodded happily. “Thank you Riku.”

We began to prepare. “By the way, have you given Daichi his present yet?” I asked, knowing full well she didn't.

Saki turned her head towards me, jittering the whole way. Her eyes were filled with tears.

“I see, you should do it. He would love anything you gave him.” I stated.

Saki made a look as if she just got struck in the heart with an arrow. “Lo. Love.” she stuttered.

“Don't overthink it.” I said.

We worked on the cupcakes for far too long. I didn't lift a finger, just offered advice. By the end there were two cupcakes that we both ate together. I hurled. So, better than last year's attempt.

“I can't do this.” Saki said, throwing away the inedible food she had made.

“You got this!” I said encouragingly. “Tonight you can use Maeko’s full kitchen, and I will help the whole way! Don't give up okay!”

The look of defeat faded from Saki’s face as she amped herself up. “You're right I can do this! This year I will make a cake for Daichi with all my feelings in it!”

It was nice when Saki got excited. Lets just hope it went well.

After school we all walked together to Maeko’s house. It was out of the way of everyone else's house but it was a mansion. I mean, a mansion! The yard was larger than Daichi and I’s houses combined. Seriously, her family was loaded! I think her dad did overseas trades or something, I don't know. What I do know is that her dad isnt home often.

“Hey.” Kioko yelled out. I turned to see her in her school uniform. She was currently walking her bike up to the front gate.

“Yo Kioko!” Toshi yelled out.

She joined the rest of us as we ogled the house. I have been here a few times, but each time I needed to take it all in again. Her house was so large I think it was in three separate zip codes.

“Here this is for you Daichi.” Kioko said, handing Daichi the Pencil case. He took it and smiled warmly at Kioko.

The party was set outside, they had set up a canopy for the festivities. Several drinks were laid out all around with snacks. Saki held the ingredients she was going to use in her hands nervously. I took the step of asking Maeko if we could use the kitchen, which she already was fine with.

“Kioko, wanna help?” I asked.

Kioko looked confused for a moment before nodding in agreement.

I filled Kioko in on the situation and we all began baking. Kioko and I stayed back; however, We let Saki take the lead and only helped when she asked.

“How much flour should I use?” She asked.

“Depends on the amount we are making.” Kioko said, looking over the instructions with her. “Wait, it's a two tier cake?”

“Is that too little?” Saki asked suddenly.

“No, just unexpected.” Kioko stated. “Well that works, then we can put icing in between each layer for flavor.”

“Oh that's a good idea!” Saki said happily.

“What were you planning to have in between them before?” I asked, afraid to know the answer.

“Bean paste.” She stated.

Karate chop! Okay I didn't do that, I kinda see where she is coming from. Bean Paste is used in a lot of baked sweets here in Japan, however not for a cake. Maybe you could use some, but that did not sound like a fun dessert everyone would enjoy.

“Should I preheat the oven?” I asked Saki, knowing full well it needed to be done. She was clearly overwhelmed so I wanted to help keep her mind focused.

“Oh yeah!” Saki said. “Lets see, it says 350 degrees, but if we do it at 700 it will cook faster!”

“Saki, that's not how that works.” Kioko laughed, she had the patients of a nun! “Besides I don't think there is an oven that can go that high.”

“This one goes up to a thousand.” I said, reading the knobs.

“What! Did she put a tiny sun in there!” Kioko said in shock. I also didn't know that ovens could go that high, what do you cook that high?

“Alright, 350, what next?” I asked, turning back to the two of them while the oven began to heat up.

“Eggs.” Saki said shyly.

“Want me to crack them?” Kioko asked.

“Thank you.” Saki said, her cheeks a bright read. Right the cupcakes earlier had a crunchy texture to them, probably the egg shells that we couldn't get out.

Kioko used a metal bowl as her edge and cracked the eggs perfectly one handed. No shells, she clearly had some cooking experience. I was glad to have invited her to this task.

We got to the point of mixing, which we left Saki to. Kiono and I just hung back and watched for a bit.

“So, you still coming over this weekend?” Kioko said casually over the sound of the hand mixer. Saki please be careful!

“Yeah, is that alright?” I asked her, watching Saki almost drop the mixer into the mix. Chocolatey liquid shot up onto the ceiling.

“Of course, I did invite you after all.” Kioko stated. “Thanks for helping Saki, I wondered what you meant at Aoi’s house.”

“She tries really hard.” I said. “I just don't want her efforts to be in vain. Plus compared to last year she is doing much better.”

“I wish I saw last year's result.” Kioko said.

“You can find it on the government’s listing of terrorist weapons.” I stated, not joking. “I hear that they are considering it a bio weapon.”

“That bad?” Kioko said, eyes wide. “Maybe we should watch her more closely.”

“Nah, she’s doing better.” I said. “You can tell she is trying really hard. I think she also realized that this might be her last chance.”

Kioko turned towards me. “Last chance? Why?”
“Well, we graduate this year.” I said.

“And? Doesn't mean we all won't stay friends afterwards.” Kioko said.

“It's because she realized there isn't much time for a high school romance.” I clarified. “Once college starts everyone will be busy, we'll be going our separate ways. I hope we all stay friends, but we won't hang out like we are now.”

“I think I see.” Kioko said looking forward. “Toshi might go anywhere in the country for school. Aoi is staying in the area, Saki will probably study in the city. Maeko will definitely have to study in the city. What about Daichi?”

“Not sure, though I expect the city as well.” I said.

“And you?” Kioko asked.

I tensed up. “I'm looking, but I'm not sure yet.”

Kioko nodded. “I'm going locally.”

“Hey I think its mixed enough!” Saki called out, the mixer still on.

After correcting her and explaining how the chunks were not mixed right, we put the cake into its pans. It felt like an eternity while the cake cooked, but it came out well. I asked Saki to make a small cupcake to try, and it tasted fine. Saki handled the icing.

“Try this.” I said, holding the icing bag and showing her how to make a little flower with it.

“Wow, that is pretty!” Saki said, trying it herself. Surprisingly she got it pretty fast and began to decorate the edge of the cake.

“Didn't know you were such a good cake decorator.” Kioko said to me, a smile on her face.

“I enjoy cooking and baking.” I said. “I don't do it often, but when I do I try to add some detail to it. Makes it look nicer.”

“You'll have to teach me.” Kioko said. “I would love to learn.”

Saki shot us a look and her face went red. She quickly turned back to the cake. What was she embarrassed by now?
“Sure, I would be happy to.” I said, watching Saki carefully.

We helped Saki carry the cake out on account of her shaky hands. Everyone cheered as it arrived and Daichi got the first slice. We sang loudly at the blushing Daichi as he blew out the candles and we all dug in. Even I could taste how much feeling Saki put into this cake, it was quite impressive.

I spotted Saki pull Daichi away from the party and give him the present she got him. It was one of her favorite books that she wanted him to read. I think Toshi got the win present wise this year, sorry Saki. the party dwindled down after a while, it seemed that Daichi enjoyed himself.

We all cleaned up and went our separate ways home. Aoi, Daichi, and I walked together. The sun was setting as we walked.

“That was fun.” Daichi said, his face was all smiles today.

“Right! Oh I gotta ask Saki about her recipe, that cake was so good!” Aoi said.

“You noticed that too!” Daichi said in shock. “Riku, you helped her make it right, you gotta tell us what she put in it.”

“That is a secret.” I said. It would be bad if I said Love.

“Kioko also helped, you two seem pretty close now.” Aoi said smugly.

“Yeah she is great.” I said. “She was a huge help.”

They both gave me a smug look. We continued on till we dropped Aoi off at her home, then began the short walk home. Oh yeah.

“Hey Daichi.” I said, pulling free the present in my school bag. I forgot to give it to him earlier.

Daichi blinked at the large present, but unwrapped it. It revealed the city design book he was eyeing in the book store.

“You got me this?” He asked, eyes wide in surprise.

“Yeah man, I could tell you wanted it.” I laughed.

Daichi smiled. “Thanks, it's just what I wanted.”

“Glad you enjoy, now read it cover to cover got it!” I said, then quickly corrected myself. “After Saki’s book.”

“I will thank you.” Daichi laughed. He continued to walk. “You know, I think I want to do this. I love looking at how cities are laid out, I want to be a part of that. Seeing how architecture works with city building is so interesting. I can see myself doing this for my whole life.”

I stood firmly in place. “Really?” I asked, overjoyed.

“Yeah, I have been on the fence about it for so long, but I think it is the field for me.” Daichi said, not turning back to me. “There is a school in Tokyo that I was looking at, I think I'm going to try for it.”

I came up from behind him and threw my arm over his shoulder. “Go for it! I can help you cram for the entrance exams if you want! Whatever you want to do, you know I got your back!”

He smiled widely. “Thanks Riku, I appreciate it. You know that I got your back too right?”

“You better, mutual benefits here.” I laughed as we walked on.

Daichi made a decision, he wasn't being indecisive. This was fantastic! He was growing and I am so proud of him. I hope that means he is close to making a decision!

That night, Toshi sent a group picture of all of us into our group chat. Kioko and I were hanging off the back of Saki, this time a part of the main picture. It was nice.

Alright Peasants! Your queen Maeko Fueki will now grace you with the next Episode preview! Wait, I don't have a script for this! Riku, what am I supposed to explain! Come on! Huh? Why is Kioko calling me? Next time! House Visit!