My Friend is a Harem Protagonist [Short]
So this will take some explaining, let's go back a week.
October 24th, A Chilly Fall Day
“A fundraiser?” I asked.
“Yep, could I get your guys help?” Kioko asked.
We were all at a local restaurant, studying for midterms. Entrance exams were coming in January, so we were all studying like mad. I may not have a plan, but I still studied.
Ren had become a staple of the group at this point. Probably because he and Toshi had become inseparable. There were smaller issues between the two, but nothing too big. I got to hear about them all in real time as they both would call me asking for advice.
“My school has it every year, but it's not required for students to partake. As such, our staffing for the event is really low.” Kioko explained.
“I'll help no problem, just let me know what I am doing.” I said, flipping through my work book.
“Thank you Riku.” Kioko said. “It's on Halloween after school if that is alright.”
“Oh do we get to dress up? I'm so in!” Aoi said happily.
“Yes we do encourage people to dress up.” Kioko said.
“Costumes.” Saki said with some hesitation.
“Dont worry Saki, I got a great one in mind for you.” Maeko said with a sinister smile.
“You only just found out about this.” Daichi said.
“I plan quickly.” Maeko laugh.
They all talked about the plans. I would have to reschedule an internship with Himiko, she would understand since it was community service. Over the last few weeks we had gone to several places, a hospital, restaurant, and construction site. This week we will be going to a daycare. I have no idea what next week would be but I could reschedule. All this experimenting and still nothing just yet, just me working.
October 31st, A Spooky Halloween.
These were the events that lead to me being at Kioko’s house right after school. Well part of the events, she said she would take care of my costume which was fine. I was going to be a vampire apparently, a big flowing cape with a massive turned up collar.
I sat in Kioko’s room as she used a soft gel to slick back my hair. I kept feeling my head being pulled back hard cause she didn't know control apparently. My face had makeup on it, something to make me look more pale apparently.
“You look good.” Kioko said, pointing my head towards the mirror. “I got you some fake fangs too.” They weren't the cheap party store kind, they were the kind you put over your canine teeth and would feel more comfortable.
“Thanks.” I said, taking the fangs.
“I suggest waiting till we get there to put them in, they could be annoying if you have them in too long.” Kioko stated.
“Will do.” I said, getting to my feet. “I'll go wait outside so you can change.”
“Thank you kind sir.” Kioko laughed.
I stepped out into the hall and walked down the stairs. Kioko’s mom was watching around the corner with a camera.
“Oh you two didnt come out together.” She said.
“Did you expect your daughter to change in front of me?” I asked.
“You know, I didnt think about that.” Kioko’s mom said.
The front door opened to reveal someone I haven't met yet. Kioko’s father. As I had expected, all the details that were not present on Kioko’s mom were wholly on her dad. Those genes are strong I tell you what.
“Who is this?” The man said. He looked grumpy. He wore a suit and tie and carried a briefcase. He must be an office worker of some kind.
“Hello sir, Im Riku Sawai.” I introduced myself, offering my hand for him to shake. I was a little nervous with the grumpy look, but apparently I shouldn't have been.
“Oh this is Riku!” Kioko’s father exclaimed, all sense of annoyance leaving his face. He replaced it with overjoy, a change so drastic that it could give anyone whiplash. “I have heard so much about you. Hello, it's nice to meet you.” He was shaking my hand quite enthusiastically.
The sound of a door creaking open silenced everything. We all turned up to the top of the stairs to spot Kioko coming out of her room. Have you ever seen an angel? Well that wasn't her, but same effect.
Kioko chose a witch for her costume. She wore a massive oversized hat, a black and purple gothic dress, and stockings with very interesting designs, were they pumpkins? The whole thing just gave her a gorgeous look. She had some purple makeup above her eyes, and wore dark lipstick.
“Woh.” Kioko’s dad and I said in unison.
“Pictures come on!” Kioko’s mom said as if we were going to a school dance.
It felt kinda strange standing next to Kioko, mostly because the hat was taller than me and threatened to poke me in the eye. Kioko took my arm in hers, pulling us close together for the picture.
Kioko’s mom and dad were gushing over the pictures, taking far too many. I started to feel really awkward as the sound of the camera shutter messed with the sound of Kioko’s dad’s phone shutter.
“We gotta go, last one.” Kioko said sharply.
“Oh okay, one more.” Kioko’s dad said.
We walked down the street. Kioko stood close to my eye level thanks to the heeled boots she was wearing. It was nice and breezy tonight, perfect for the walk we were doing. Her school was a distance, one that Kioko normally biked to everyday.
“Sorry about my family.” Kioko said shyly. “They can be embarrassing.”
“No no it's alright, they seem nice.” I said quickly.
Kioko gave a blushing smile to me. “So what do you think?” She said it while exemplifying her dress.
“I don't think words can describe how good it looks on you.” I said bluntly. I had meant to think it over before I replied, but I didn't.
Kioko’s face turned a brighter red. “I can say the same for you, thank you.”
“Kioko you look so cute!” Aoi said when we arrived outside the school gate.
Kioko’s school was massive, the perfect example of a private school.
“Me? Look at you Aoi!” Kioko said. She was right, Aoi was dressed like a red riding hood, a strange choice. It didn't look sexy like American costumes did, just cute.
“She worked for hours on it.” Daichi said, he was dressed like a zombie. Daichi was incharge of bringing Aoi. Maeko and Saki were together, and Ren and Toshi were of course together.
Meako stood in her costume, a scarecrow. Saki was a japanese ghost, white kimono and that white triangle on her head, I never did learn what those were. Ren was an Oni, though he wore more clothes then the traditional Oni did. Toshi was next to him, dressed as a Jaingshi, a chinese vampire.
“I figured you guys would do a couple costumes.” Maeko asked Toshi and Ren.
“We were.” Toshi replied. “We both just didn't talk to each other about what costume we were doing, oh well this is funny.”
They both were laughing, so I guess that works out. With that settled we entered the event and went to the staff area to get our assignments.
“Oh Kioko!” A group of girls said, coming over to us.
“Hey” Kioko said, waving to them.
“Oh are these your friends?” One of them said. She looked like the popular type of girl, a leader of a clique.
“Yep, let me introduce.” Kioko said, turning. However the girl had rushed forward to Diachi.
“You must be Riku, I have heard alot about you.” The girl said to Daichi.
“Actually I am Riku.” I said, raising my hand.
The girl looked me over, then her face became aghast. Did I look bad? The girl grabbed Kioko’s hand and pulled her away with the other girls. They all stood a short distance away, talking just hushed enough to not be heard. However I could see they were waving their hands around a lot, and seemed to point at me alot. Jeez, was something wrong with this costume?
The girls returned after a moment, more composed.
“Well, let me introduce everyone.” Kioko said, her face looking like a bright tomato, was I that embarrassing? “This noisey one is NIko, this one is Sara, and that one is Akari.”
“Why did you talk to us like we were objects?” Niko asked.
“I did no such thing that you can prove.” Kioko said. “This is Riku, Daichi, Aoi, Ren, Toshi, Maeko, and Saki.” She pointed at all of us respectively.
“You didn't even give them weird titles like me!” Niko said loudly.
“Oh they deserve titles.” I stated.
“Was that an insult, Riku.” Maeko said, glaring at me.
“Well lets get you guys working.” Akari chimed in. “There is a dinner going on for the guests, could I get Ren, Toshi, Aoi, and Daichi to help clean up dishes. Saki and Maeko, could you be food runners? Oh Riku, could you help Kioko in the kitchen? We dont have alot of students who can cook, Kioko is the best we got.”
“Sure, I love cooking.” I said as we began to move into the event. Akari seemed the serious type, straight to business.
“Really? Are you good at it?” Sara asked.
“He is really good.” Kioko stated. I had been visiting her house a lot, her mom even gave me some cooking tips recently. As such, I cooked for them every now and then to thank them for letting me come over.
“Oh you get his cooking often then?” Sara said with a sinister smile.
“Sometimes.” Kioko stated.
“Cute.” Niko said.
Everyone was split up into groups, Kioko and I working the kitchens. Apparently this was the equivalent to their cultural festival, as such all the clubs were offering something for the fundraiser. I noticed this when I saw a manga club trying to offload some trashy manga on me. It normally is rude to call someone’s work trashy, however they are a part of the Dai-ku fan club apparently. You can imagine their shock when they spotted the two people they were drawing at their event.
The event went smoothly. I did have to offer Saki some words of encouragement so she would get over her shyness for the event. After a while she was running food with no problems, in fact she seemed to be having fun. People were starting to calm down and relax. As such I was given leave.
“Give me a few and I will show you around.” Kioko said, helping another student clean.
“Sure, I will wait in the hall.” I said, taking my leave. I had already cleaned a majority of the kitchen, so it was fair of me to leave the little extra for them.
I looked around the hall, people were looking around with curious eyes. I had to sneak in to see what it was, paintings. The art club had posted their art for auction. I recognized Niko, Akari, and Sara’s names on their art.
Kioko had mentioned them alot in our nightly phone calls, it was nice to put a face to the names. I'm sure they feel the same about all of Kioko’s friends. I forgot that Kioko had friends inside school, it was easy to forget that with how much she hangs out with everyone else.
I spotted Kioko’s name below an art piece. I had unconsciously been seeking it and found it with little attention. Most parent came to the event, Kioko’s family would be coming after Kioko’s dad had cleaned up. Most likely he was already here. It was just strange to not see that many people around Kioko’s art compared to the others.
‘Longing’ was the title, and the art itself caught me off guard. It was a picture I hadn't seen Kioko draw before, yet I recognized it instantly. It was our hands, clasped together. It was from the first time I visited her house, when she asked me to hold my hand up.
How long was I staring at that painting? She had memorized it, and colored it. She wasn't good with hands, and she said she struggled with color, yet this looked like a picture from that exact moment. The way my fingers were extended upwards, hers locked down on the webbing of my hands, even the veins of my arms could be seen clearly.
“Riku?” Kioko said. I turned to find her standing next to me. “You like it?”
“Yeah.” I said, my jaw still firmly on the floor.
“I'm glad, It took a lot of practice. It's thanks to you modeling for me.” Kioko said. “Though it seems it's not drawing many eyes.”
“I'm surprised, it's amazing.” I said. “Guess all these people don't know good art.”
“Nah, it's because my colors aren't up to snuff yet. Look at the other girls' art and you can see that clear as day.” Kioko said.
“I saw already.” I said, my eyes transfixed on the painting. “I don't know, none of them had a reaction like this one did to me.”
I couldn't see Kioko’s face, but I felt the heat from it. “Yeah?”
“You're a fantastic artist Kioko.” I said, turning to her. “And this is a fantastic painting.”
Kioko looked down at the floor, her witch hat covering her face. “Thank you Riku, it means alot. It's stressful, you know? Putting your art out there for everyone to see, to criticize. I know it's not perfect, not yet at least, still it means so much to hear that.”
I smiled at her. “Hey, why don't you show me around a little?”
Kioko perked up. “Of course, right this way I will show you my class.”
I didn't know how to ask about the inspiration for the art, or the name. ‘Longing’, why was that the name?
“Hey Riku.” Kioko said as we walked. “Are you busy next saturday?”
“You want me to come over?” I asked. “Im free if you want.”
“No, actually I want you to go somewhere with me.” Kioko said. “Is that alright? It would be a full day thing if that is okay?”
“Sure, just give me the details later okay?” I said.
Kioko turned to me with a smile. “Of course, now let's go, I got so much to show you.” She grabbed my hand and pulled me along.
Once we had finished the tour it came time for the art auction. Kioko and I watched from the side lines. Sara’s art had gotten the highest bid so far, apparently Art scouts had come to this event in an attempt to get a piece from a famous artist before they became famous.
Kioko’s art was put up for auction. The room was quiet. I felt Kioko wrap her fingers around him. She gripped tightly, I could feel her anxiety so I let it sit.
A paddle was raised, representing someone bidding. It was Kioko’s mom. Another paddle, Kioko’s dad. Kioko’s mom raised the paddle again, seriously were these two fighting over who would out bid the other? They shared money, didn't they?
“Idiots.” Kioko said in a whisper. I caught her smiling though.
A third paddle was raised, an unknown person? He looked like an art snob, a scarf and that french style hat with glasses with no lenses. Kioko gasped suddenly. However, Kioko’s family wouldn't give this up easily. At one point they removed Kioko’s dad’s paddle. Now it was her mom versus the snob. To my surprise, her mom backed down easily. The snob won the auction, not the highest price but still high enough. She got the third highest selling piece.
I turned to Kioko, tears were running down her cheeks. This meant alot to her didn't it, it was confirmation of her talents. Being told by those close to you that your art was good was one thing, but once it was accepted by strangers it took on another tone altogether.
I gripped her hand tightly, an action that caused Kioko to look directly at me. Had I broken her concentration? I didn't mean to ruin the moment, crap.
“Thank you all for coming tonight.” Kioko said to everyone.
“Of course.” Everyone replied. We were all about to split off for the night. Kioko would be heading home with her parents.
“Hey Riku.” Niko said, approaching me. “I saw you and Kioko and during the auction, good work buddy.” She nudged me in the ribs with her elbow.
“What did I do?” I asked. “I didn't bid?”
Niko gave me an innocent smile. “Oh nothing, just take care of her will ya?”
“Niko what are you getting at?” Kioko said, giving her a glare.
“Huh? Nothing, nothing at all Kioko.” Niko said. “Though Riku, you should have tried for that painting.”
I should have. I don't know what it was, but it caught my attention. It pulled on my heart in a strange way. It ached, it beat loudly, it wanted.
We all separated, and as I watched Kioko go in her witches outfit, I started to understand that painting a bit more.
“Riku?” Daichi said. He and Aoi were farther ahead of me. “You all good?”
“Yeah.” I said, watching Kioko turn a corner. I was transfixed by her, where did that come from? “Sorry. Let's go.” Yet I lingered for another moment, watching where she was. Longing.
Well well peasants, looks like I get to do another next episode preview! That is right your queen returns! Wait, I'm not even in the next episode again! Why do I get these previews! Kioko and Riku are taking a trip together, Riku I demand another preview! Next episode, Plans of the Future.
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