Chapter 17:

Episode 17- Lets Celebrate

My Friend is a Harem Protagonist [Short]

December 6th. A Snowy Day.

I had awoken in the dead of night. My phone was ringing. The clock told me it was midnight on the dot. The caller ID told me Kioko was calling.

“Hello?” I said tiredly.

“Happy Birthday!” Kioko said happily.

I forgot that it was today. “Thank you.” I said, so very very tired. I was an early bird, not a night owl.

“We are celebrating okay? So don't go running off or anything.” Kioko said sharply.

“I know, I won't.” I said. I accepted my fate, this year would be a noisey birthday. “Hey Kioko, when is your birthday?”

“Hm?” Kioko said over the phone. “April 2nd.”

“Good, I'll make sure to be the first to wish you a happy birthday then.” I said tiredly.

“I look forward to it.” Kioko said. “Sleep well Riku.”

“You too Kioko.” I said, letting her hang up the phone. I made sure to make a note of her birthday on my calendar, as I would not remember it once I fell asleep.I wasn't bad at remembering dates, just too tired.

The next morning I was up at my usual time, getting ready for the day. I had been preparing for my college entrance exams now that I had made a decision on my future. I chose a local university, the same one Kioko would be attending. As such we would be taking our entrance exams together in the middle of January.

Himiko had been a big help, but our time working together was coming to an end. Now our meeting had come to study sessions with Izumi and the other student council members.

Izumi wasn't going to college, she would start working right out of high school. She needed to graduate of course, but she decided she wanted to audition for roles in the city as soon as possible. She even had a few ideas lined up for after graduation.

Himiko would be studying in the city for teaching. She wasn't behind on her studies, she was like me where we were just going over what we already knew.

During the second semester midterms I had once again raised my score. I was now in the top ten of students. I didn't quite get it, but I assume it was Himiko’s influence. Or maybe it was me actually wanting to try harder now?

That all said, finals were upon us. Our last day was December 23rd, it would bring an end to our second semester. It was the last one that really mattered to most people as they would get into their college of choice by the end of january. The Third semester would just be a formality, just a chance to not screw up at the very end. However, we still had our cultural festival to look forward to.

My morning routine had gone as expected, and I left my house. Daichi was already at my front gate, Aoi with him. They both shouted a happy birthday to me, which I appreciated. I didn't hate my birthday, I just always felt so odd celebrating.

I knew why it felt odd. I never felt like I deserved celebrating. What was special about me that required celebrating? However, I am changing that mind set! Even now I have to remind myself that I deserve celebration just as much as anyone else. This was a special day for me in their eyes at the very least.

We all walked together, we were still far from where we would run into Saki so we just got to enjoy some us time. It felt like forever since it was just the three of us.

I wonder, back then, what did they think of me? I remember how we met Aoi, we saw her trying to cross the crosswalk by herself. It was the second day of elementary school. Daichi and I walked up to her and noticed she was all nervous. We were both very different people, much more childish, but Daichi was still his kind self.

“Here, we'll cross with you, hold our hands.” Daichi said, taking Aoi’s hand.

“Thank you.” Aoi said, looking at the two of us on either side of her.

“Oh you should play with us during recess.” I had said.

Aoi smiled widely. “Ahuh.”

Those were good times. Aoi hadn't had friends back then as there weren't many in our neighborhood her age. It only took a week before I could say we were all friends. Back then the title was very important, it was like a love confession. Nowadays I don't even ask people to be friends, we just become it.

“Riku?” Aoi said to me, drawing me to the present. “You okay?”

“Yeah sorry, I was just getting sentimental.” I said with a smile. “This year has been a long one dont you think? So much happening, so much changing.”

“Yeah I feel that.” Aoi nodded.

Daichi looked low. “Hey, I decided on my school.”

“Oh which one?” We asked him together.

“It's in Tokyo.” Daichi said, his voice shaky. He was nervous about something. Probably being separate from everyone.

“That's great!” I said loudly. “I figured you would, but you still hadn't fully decided. I am happy for you.”

“Yeah Daichi, that's huge!” Aoi said cheerfully.

“Yeah its just that, we all will be separated then.” Daichi said. I knew it. “You and Riku are staying in town, Toshi and Ren are probably going away. Maeko will be in town but she could leave at any time. Saki is going to the city too, its like our group is falling apart.”

“Kioko is staying in town.” I stated. “But I get what you mean. Though remember in this day and age it's so easy to keep in contact, distance is nothing really.”

“Yeah, plus Tokyo isn't that far. We can always visit, or you can visit us.” Aoi said happily. It was moments like this that I am glad Aoi is here.

Daichi smiled. “Thanks, we still got time together anyways.”

“Exactly!” I declared, slapping him on the back. “We still have a few months, and plenty of fun till then.”

“Oh that reminds me.” Aoi began. “We should have a christmas party, oh and a New Years party!”

“Yeah totally!” Daichi said.

I spotted her in my peripherals. “Yo Saki, what do you think about a Christmas party?”

Saki was shocked at suddenly being addressed. “Um, that sounds fun.”

“Oh right we can't forget Saki’s birthday too.” Aoi stated.

December 26th was Saki’s birthday. Probably one of the worst days for a birthday if you liked presents. We made an effort to celebrate Saki’s birthday separate from Christmas.

“So many parties.” I said. “Maeko will love it.”

“Exactly!” Aoi said.

“Happy Birthday Riku.” Saki said quietly to me while the conversation continued.

“Happy Birthday Riku!” Toshi and Ren yelled together as we arrived outside the front gates. Apparently they had both hidden on either side with confetti shooters to surprise us. Now they were picking up confetti among the snow.

“You guys didn't think that one through did you.” I said as the guard glared at them.

“We just wanted to make sure we told ya in an awesome way!” Toshi said happily.

“Well thank you.” I said, helping to pick the confetti. I may have also picked up some extra snow and thrown it at them for fun.

Once I sat in my seat, I found Maeko standing over me. She probably looked intimidating from behind, but her face showed her nervousness.

“Ha-Happy B-Birthday Ri-RIku.” Maeko forced out, breaking her standard persona.

“Sorry I missed that, can you repeat it?” I teased.

“You did not!” Maeko demanded.

Once lunch hit I found myself in the student council room.

“Dark King of the Night Fortress, today is the celebration of your birth is it not?” Izumi stated in her chunni way.

“Nope.” I lied.

Izumi deflated. “Wait, really?”

“Yes it is.” Himiko said, sitting already.

‘Riku!” Izumi said angrily. “Look, I got you a present!”

It was a fancy writing pen with a cool dragon design on it. I thanked her and took a seat across from Himiko. I noticed the other student council wasn't in today, that was odd.

Himiko cleared her throat. “Happy Birthday Riku.” Himiko said, handing me a fancy notebook to match my pen. It had a leather case so I can replace it with new paper.

“Thank you both.” I said happily.

“Himiko, you called him Riku, oh you are getting better!” Izumi said happily.

“I say his name all the time!” Himiko said.

“Not in front of other people.” Izumi pointed out.

Himiko pouted. We got about our studying. Izumi needed so much help to pass science.

I arrived outside Maeko’s house with everyone. I wasn't even given the chance to change out of my uniform. Apparently everyone else had brought a change of clothes, a thought that didn't make its way to me.

“Yo.” Kioko said, walking up. She had to leave her bike at home because of the snow. She was in a nice winter outfit today, even she had time to change!

“Heyya Kioko!” Aoi yelled out. “Come on, we're going to party!”

HImiko and Izumi had been invited, but felt awkward around the others. Izumi was clinging close to Himiko and me, meanwhile Himiko was in my shadow.

“Oh, it's your president.” Kioko said as she came to my side. “Hello Missy Prez.”

“It's Himiko Hara.” Himiko stated.

“You can call her InuHara like I do.” I said.

Himiko took a second to think. “Why are you referring to me like a dog!”

“Oh! She is the guardian best of Riku’s dark fortress, the three headed dog Cerberus!”

“I am not a dog!” Himiko yelled.

“Well it's nice to see you again Missy InuHara.” Kioko joked.

Himiko offered only a glare in return.

The party was held in the large dining room Maeko had in her house. We played games, ate some quality food, and just had a good time. Eventually everyone offered me presents that I wish they hadn't.

“Is this a workbook?” I asked Maeko.

“You gotta study for entrance exams, and you're behind aren't you?” Maeko stated.

I appreciated it, It would help. Though I felt pretty confident in my ability to pass the test, but hey can't be too over prepared right?

“Oh, a controller for Hunting Monster!” I said looking at Aoi’s present.

“Yep, tracked one down for ya.” Aoi said proudly.

Saki’s present was a collection of her favorite books, ones she thought I would enjoy. Slipped in was a ‘Learning to write’ book. I gave her a grateful smile.

“A new bag?” I questioned. It was from both Ren and Toshi.

“Well your current bag is looking a little worn out.” Toshi explained. “Figured you would need a new one soon anyways.

I felt a little overwhelmed with all the thoughtful presents.

Daichi offered his to me, it was clearly a book. I opened it to find the first copy of ‘We Struggle to Learn’, a volume I already have?

“Open it.” Daichi said.

I did so, on the inside cover was a signature from the writer addressed to me.

“No way.” I said in utter shock.

Daichi looked prouder than Aoi did. I pulled them all in for a thankful hug. It was nice to get presents from my friends. Last year I kept quiet about the day and only got one from Daichi and Aoi.

“Oh Kioko, you're next.” Toshi said, pushing Kioko towards me.

“Huh I have to give you one?” Kioko said to me. “I thought my presence was enough of a present for you.” She looked smug.

“I expect that of Maeko, not you.” I said plainly.

“What!” Maeko shouted. “I don't sound like that do I?”

“Yes.” Everyone said in unison.

Kioko held the smug look for a moment before sighing. “Fine Fine, you caught me I got ya something.” She held out a small box to me. It looked like the kind of box you would put a ring into.

Everyone gasped for a moment.

I opened the box, revealing a small charm. It was an envelope that was sealed with a ‘Luck’ mark on it.

“A good luck charm?” I asked for clarity.

“Yep, though you can open the inside of it another time.” Kioko said.

“Aren't you supposed to write your own goals when you put them in the charm?” I asked.

“Yep. but I just filled it in for ya. Once you feel like you need to open it up, I think you will like what I picked for ya.” Kioko said smugly.

“I'll just open it now then.” I said, reaching to open it.

“No! Not yet!” Kioko said sharply. She looked around and her face turned red.

“Then I will wait.” I laughed. I picked up the charm and held it in my palm. It was small enough to fit in my wallet, so I could carry it around anywhere. “Thank you Kioko.”

She smiled at me.

“I won.” Aoi stated.

“What you mean, mine was way better.” Daichi stated.

“Please, me and Ren got it in the bag!” Toshi declared.

A sudden debate came out. I decided to let them argue, not offering a solution. In truth, I think Kioko won. I don't know why, but the charm felt good in my hand, like it was filled with good energy. I wonder what it said inside?

Everyone started calming down and we began to disperse. I decided to get some air, Kioko following me.

“You have fun?” Kioko asked.

“Yeah.” I said. “Thanks for coming.”

“Wouldn't have missed it for the world.” Kioko said with a smile. “You get everything you want?”

I held my tongue. “Yeah.”

“Nah there is something else you wanted isn't there.” Kioko said, reading my mind.

I looked over Kioko. I wasn't sure what I wanted, but it involved Kioko. “Dont worry about it, I am happy with everything tonight. Though when can I open the charm?”

“When it feels right.” Kioko said, looking forward.

“Then I will hold off for a bit.” I said.

“That's a good idea.” Kioko said.

We sat there for a while, staring into the night sky on the chilly night. This was probably my best birthday so far. Maybe it's because so much has changed for me, or maybe I finally feel like I am a part of this story. Whatever it was, I was happy.

Yo, Ren here for the Next Episode preview! Christmas is upon us so I gotta get a Christmas present for Toshi! Oh and take her to the Christmas tree lighting! So much to do! What? Finals? Riku, you know that isn't nearly as important. Next time, Lighting of the Tree.