Chapter 22:

Episode 22- Cultural Festival Part2

My Friend is a Harem Protagonist [Short]

March 12th, the Final Day

Our last day began pretty well, the crowds were enormous. Apparently a rumor had spread around the town about our cultural festival so everyone was coming by.

I watched Daichi, he seemed distracted. He had been off since last night. It wasn't until I spotted Maeko being awkward around him that it hit me.

She confessed! Holy cow no way, did she really! Daichi please tell me if she did or not this is huge! Now I am worried, they were on promoter detail together later. Would that help?

I decided to leave things as they were. Daichi would have promoted most of the day so he could interact with everyone, hopefully this triggered the others to action.

“Hey Riku.” Kioko said. She appeared next to me. I was a money collector for a bit, so it made sense I would see her. “Wanna check out Izumi’s play when you get a break?”

Right, I still hadn't seen it yet. I could make it to that, I just had to do what I could to help the other girls. This could be the turning point, the climax!

“Sure, but can I ask a favor of you?” I said.

Kioko tilted her head. “Sure what is it?”

“I think Maeko confessed yesterday.” I said.

“Yeah she did.” Kioko said.

“Did she tell you?” I said shocked.

“Not quite, I just have eyes.” Kioko said. “Plus I spotted her yesterday psyching herself up.”

“Okay, well do you know about the other girls yet?” I asked.

“Well I know Toshi did a few months ago.” Kioko stated.

“I meant Saki and Aoi.” I said.

“Oh, not a clue.” Kioko said.

“OKay, well can you maybe try to help them along? Daichi will be on promotion soon so he can hopefully interact with them.” I said looking over the schedule.

Kioko pouted, then sighed. “Fine, I will see what I can do, how long till your break?”

“Another hour.” I said.

“So if things are all set up by then you can just enjoy this festival right? You wouldn't need to worry about them?” Kioko said.

“I guess so, I would still worry a little but if the girls are going to confess I wouldn't have to do anything I think.” I said. Before I even finished my sentence Kioko was in a dead sprint towards the maid cafe.

I sent Daichi out, after an hour Maeko would be joining him. That gave the other two girls an hour to make a move. Then Maeko would have an hour. After that Daichi had an hour break so that was the best chance.

After an hour, I headed off on my break. Kioko had met me at my class and we made our way to 3-F.

The line was surprisingly long, they had apparently drawn a lot of attention the first two days. Luckily we knew the main actress so got to sneak in. Himiko allowed it, since she was the usher. Now sitting in the classroom we sat and watched as the lights dimmed and the curtain rose.

What I witnessed I could not explain. Red riding hood (Played by Izumi) fought the three evil bears. She was joined by five dwarves (because they didnt have enough people for seven) on her quest to bear country. Along the way she was given a pumpkin to help her travel faster and a set of ruby heels. Once she arrived a captive woman in the bears tower allowed Red into the tower by letting her climb her extensions. When the climax came Red defeated the evil bears by bludgeoning them to death with her ruby heels, so that was their purpose.

It sounds like a mess, but it was pretty entertaining. I had to hand it to Izumi. She acted very well, not even letting her Chunni side come out. Apparently people were saying the play changed every time you saw it, so it was always a fresh experience.

“That was insane.” Kioko laughed as we walked the halls. “I couldn't believe it when she stabbed the little bear’s eye with the heel.”

She obviously didn't stab another student in the eye, just made it look like she did.

“It was something else wasn't it.” I laughed. My sides hurt from the strange humor.

“Where to next?” Kioko asked.

I held back my laughs, though it took me a minute. “Well, how did it go with the others?”

“Well right about now Aoi should be on break seeking out Daichi.” Kioko said.

“Oh boy, I can see alot of ways that could go wrong. Maybe I should call them and make sure they meet at the same place?” I said.

“Or maybe calling them would interrupt a moment between them.” Kioko stated.

“Yeah that seems more likely.” I said, remembering the Rom Com’s curse.

“Maybe we should just trust they can do it on their own.” Kioko said.

“Yeah, Aoi should be fine, what about Saki?” I asked.

“She goes on brake soon, so she should run into him soon enough.” Kioko said. “Relax, I heard that there was live music in the auditorium. Can we go?”

I thought it over. Saki might run into Aoi and Daichi, but I couldn't worry about that right now. I had to leave it to them, right?

“Yeah. let's go.” I said as we turned to leave.

“Oh Riku!” I heard the sound of peppy energetic people.

Kioko and I turned to see Toshi and Ren, along with the rest of the baseball and softball team, traveling thru halls like a group of troublemakers.

“How's it going!” Toshi said. She looked sweaty, probably because they just finished practice.

“We were just about to go see the music, wanna join us?” I said.

The whole group stopped, well over twenty people. “Nah we're good.” They all said in unison. Creepy.

“Alright, how was practice?” I asked.

Suddenly, I found my hand being grabbed and my body being pulled away. Kioko had done the act and now was dragging me off towards the music.

The concert was massive, students, alumni, teachers, parents, and random strangers were all hanging out jamming to the rock music on stage. It was the school music club that was performing which consisted of all guys. The mixed rock with rap pretty well, though I had not expected it when their drummer started busting out raps.

After we got our fill of music we went to eat, grabbing some food from the booths. We walked through the venue trying to find a place to sit and eat. No luck.

“Hey, I got a spot if you wanna sit.” I said.

“Oh, Where?” Kioko asked.

The place in question was the rooftop of the school. I knew it would be empty, and I remembered there being a bench up here from my times hiding out here. The rooftop was like a small park with trees and bushes. I heard that a professional gardener took care of everything up here but never knew if that was fact or not.

“Wow, we can see the whole event from up here.” Kioko said, looking through the fence to prevent jumpers.

“Yeah it's amazing, everything feels so small from up here.” I said, biting into my food.

Kioko was grinning wide. “I'm glad we came up here.”

“Maybe we can see the others from up here?” I said, looking down on the crowd.

Kioko seemed to stiffen. “Maybe.”

“Something wrong?” I asked.

Kioko was looking out into the crowd, her mind seemed to be elsewhere. “Why are you so worried about everyone else?”

“What? Why wouldn't I be?”

“Cause it's not your job to worry about them. You should focus on enjoying yourself. This whole time you have been worrying about Daichi and the others haven't you.” Kioko said.

“A little yeah.” I admitted.

“They will be fine.” Kioko said, returning to herself. “What about you? They all are making this a festival they won't forget, you know no regrets and all that. What about you?”

I didn't have an answer. “I dont know.”

Kioko sat back down. “You gotta get back to work soon right? Are you working the rest of the night?”

“Yeah till close.” I said.

Kioko nodded. “I should get going then, this was a lot of fun. Hey, how about we go do something next weekend? Oh graduation is coming up, hey you should come to mine, it's a few days before yours so it should be fine.”

“Oh, yeah sure.” I said.

“Great, ill see ya later Riku.” Kioko said, getting to her feet and heading to the door.

“See ya.” I said. It was weak, but I said it. I watched her go, and all I wanted to say was ‘Don't go’ yet I couldn't bring myself to say it. My head was hazing up.

She was gone. I was left with myself. I looked down on everyone, wondering how they all did it. A festival with no regrets huh.

“Riku?” I heard. I turned sharply, finding Daichi standing at the door of the roof.

“Yo, Daichi.” I waved from the bench. I felt a little weak. Suddenly I got spurred with energy, Daichi looked concerned. Right, the girls would have met with him wouldn't they?

“You good?” Daichi asked as he approached.

“Yeah of course.” I said with a laugh. “How has it been?”

Daichi took a seat next to me. “Its been, something. I need some advice.”

Was this it. Was this the moment I waited for?

“The girls, they kinda confessed their love for me. I don't really know what to do.” Daichi said, looking at the ground.

It is! Oh thank you Rom Com gods above! I can feel myself tearing up a little! This was fantastic. Yet, why did I feel a little hollow?

I had prepped so many lines, practiced for this moment. I was ready for any situation that could have arisen. Yet, I had nothing.

“Daichi, I think you already know.” I said. “You just want an outside opinion to make it concrete for you right? But you already know who you want to be with, don't you?”

Daichi looked at the ground. “Yeah. I have known for a little while.”

“Then tell her. Don't give yourself any regrets, okay?” I said.

Daichi put a hand on my shoulder. “Thanks Riku.” He pulled out his phone, probably texting the girl in question to meet him somewhere.

“Of course, you know I always got your back.” I said.

“And I got yours.” Daichi stated. “So, what about you?”

“Huh?” I questioned.

Daichi smiled. “I may be a little dense on things like romance, but even I noticed yours. You have worked so hard to help me with my own romance, I took notice of it a little while ago. So now I want to help you. So what about you and Kioko, how do you feel about her?”

“Kioko?” I said. The words hung in my throat. It was like I relived the last year of my life. Either I was having a revelation or I was dying. Luckily it was the prior. “How do I feel about Kioko.” I said again.

Right, I knew how I felt. I have known for a little while now. I just did not face them. Was my head always in a haze, so much so I couldn't accept something like that? Yes. I was convinced I didn't deserve romance, who was I? I was just a side character in Daichi’s story, why should I get a romance?

But that wasn't the case. I wasn't a side character. I am me, I deserve good things just as much as everyone else. I didn't want to leave any regrets today.

“How do I feel? Of course I know how I feel about her.” I said with a smile.

“Yeah you do.” Daichi said.

I got to my feet.

“Where are you going?” Daichi asked.

“To find Kioko.” I said. “To tell her how I feel.”

Daichi smiled. “Go then. Good luck.”

With those parting words, I ran.

I ran hard, down the flight of stairs that lead to the third floor. I turned sharply, had to find the main stairwell. Had to catch her before she left.

“Riku!” I heard. It was Aoi, she was standing near a hallway. People were filling the halls. “Kioko passed her a few minutes ago, you can catch her if you take the main stairs.”

I approached Aoi, jogging in place to keep my pace. “How did you know?”

“Daichi had us in a group call. Sorry, I kind heard alot of it.” Aoi said. That sneak! “Riku, you got this! We all support you! Its cause of you that we were even able to tell him how we feel.”

I smiled. “Good look Aoi.” and I was off again.

I jumped from the third floor stairs down to the middle landing. I rounded the corner to spot the whole stairwell crowded with people. Seriously, this was a fire hazard, get off the stairs! I didn't have time, I had to take the side stairs. The second floor was packed with people, but I could slip through if I hurried and shoved people a little.

“Move it!” I heard in unison from behind me as I raced through the hall. I turned my head to the sound and spotted Toshi and Ren, along with the whole baseball and softball team. They were jogging quickly towards me in a V formation, plowing thru the crowds. They were upon me.

“Oh crap!” I said, preparing to be trampled.

Instead I was pulled into the group, thrown in behind Toshi who acted at the center.

“We got ya buddy.” Ren said, holding me steady with another baseball team member.

“You guys.” I said, tearing up.

“The side stairs will be clear, we will get ya there okay? All of us going down the stairs would cause an issue, you got this Riku!” Toshi said from ahead.

“Right!” I said, working to keep up pace with these athletes.

“I'm so happy for ya RIku.” Toshi said.

“Same.” Ren said. “You got this, just don't chicken out!”

“After all this? I dont think I even have an option.” I said.

“Alright, here is your stop, go get her!” Toshi said.

I braced as I was thrown out of the V. I landed on the first step but tumbled the rest.

“OOOHHH.” The teams said in unison.

“Captain, we might have killed him.” A member of the softball team said.

I wasn't in pain, I covered my head with my arms. I got to my feet and ran.

First floor, not far. I felt something tug on my arm suddenly. I turned to spot Saki.

“Not that way.” Saki said, then pointed towards the back entrance. “Maeko got the Dai-Ku fans to block the front entrance, Kioko is heading to the back exit.”

“First, how did she manage that?” I asked.

“She is the president of the Dai-Ku fan club, didnt you know?” Saki said innocently.

“Ima kill her!” I said aloud.

“She also said ‘Good luck Riku, take care of my friend.’” Saki said.

“Okay, she gets a pass for today.” I said.

“Riku, good luck!” Saki said with an encouraging look.

I just smiled and sprinted away. The halls were less packed. The back entrance had no booths set up, it was basically empty so no one would be there.

I emerged from the school building and spotted Kioko walking headlong towards the exit gate. I was panting heavily, struggling for breath. Crap that fall must have hurt a bit more than I expected.

“Kioko!” I yelled out.

Kioko stopped, then turned towards me. “Oh Riku, what's up?”

Crap, I wasn't ready. This was pretty spur of the moment. No, my feelings were clear to me now, I just needed to say them.

“I- I love spending time with you!” I yelled out. Kioko looked shocked.

“I lo-love how passionate you are about art.” I continued.

“-up” I heard Kioko say quietly.

“I love how kind you are.” I continued on.

“Shut up.” Kioko said, more loudly.

I must have misheard her right? I pushed on.

“I love your style.” I had closed my eyes instinctively, It was hard to do this while looking at her. It made me nervous. “But, most of all, I love”

“SHUT UP!” Kioko shouted.

I opened my eyes, Kioko was standing very close to my face. She didnt look angry, her face was bright red and her eyes were wide.

“What.” I said shakily.

“You can't just say you love something and expect that to be enough!” Kioko yelled out. She was inches from my face. “That's not how love is. It's shown through actions, repeated actions, not just one singular action. If you love something you show not say it. So if you love something, can you show it?”

“O-Of course!” I stuttered out. I was thrown off. She was right though, its like how you don't have to say your friends with someone to know they are your friend. You know it because of the actions you do and they do. Its how I realized my feelings for Kioko, because she showed me how she felt over and over.

“Then prove it!” Kioko said.

Prove it, prove my feelings. Actions, have I shown my feelings to her? I wasnt even sure of my feelings for so long. I had to do something, what though?

Before I knew it, I kissed her. Her lips were soft, and she tasted like cherries. After a moment, she wrapped her arms around me in an embrace, and I followed suit. We stayed like that in blissful eternity. I am glad no one was here, I could get into alot of trouble if a teacher saw this. However, at this moment none of that mattered. Just Kioko.

We pulled apart and she buried her face in my chest.

“I'll accept your feelings.” Kioko said shyly. “Just dont be stupid okay.”

“I make no promises that I wont be stupid.” I joked.

“Yeah, that's okay, I like that about you.” Kioko said. “Well, I like everything about you for the most part.”

“I like everything about you, even if you draw my nose weird.” I joked.

Kioko laughed. “I have gotten better, you know that.”

“Still make me look like an easter island statue.” I quipped.

“Oh shut it.” She pulled me closer. “I just need a moment, my face is a bit too red, you might think I have a fever or something.”

“I'm not that dense!” I said.

“You sure? You didn't seem to notice how I felt about you for almost a year.” Kioko quipped.

“No, I noticed them.” I said. “I also noticed that it was you that kissed me on the summer trip.”

“I didn't cover my tracks that well.” Kioko laughed. “Though, you seemed to miss the other time I tried to kiss you.”

“Outside your house after we went to the water park.” I stated.

“Damnit, okay you're more observant than I give you credit for.” Kioko laughed into my shirt.

“Why thank you.” I laughed. “Please stay, I want to dance with you tonight.”

Kioko didn't reply, she just nodded her head in my chest. After a few more minutes she finally stepped back. Her face was still very red, but I am sure mine was too. She was so cute, how could I not fall for this girl? She grabbed my hand and we began to walk inside.

“Oh, I gotta find something to do while I wait for you to finish up.” Kioko said.

“You could do me a favor a tell Maeko to stop writing smut about Daichi and me.” I said.

“Oh that is why she asked if I wanted to draw you professionally.” Kioko said.

“Please don't.” I stated.

“You sure? I think we could sell it for a good profit. I just need you and Daichi to do some poses for me.” Kioko joked.

“Please no.” I said.

“Ri-ko? Would that be our ship name? I like Kio-ku better.” Kioko stated.

“Real people don't have ship names!” I stated.

I looked up at the roof and spotted Daichi looking down at me. I gave him a look that said ‘Your turn’ and continued on.

“I think tonight will be interesting, so make sure to stick around.”

“Of course.” Kioko laughed.

“Oh, so I guess we should go on a date huh.” I said.

“Yes please, lots of them.” Kioko stated.

“Alright, let's go on one to start.” I said.

With that, we returned to the festival. I had to stop working early as my injury had finally taken effect. Kioko held a bag of ice to my bruised arm and scolded me for being so reckless. Toshi came around to apologize and congratulate me.

Finally, the festival wrapped up. A large bonfire was set up outside the school and everyone was dancing around it. I felt Kioko close, Himiko allowing her to stay since we were a couple now.

I spotted Daichi dancing with the girl he chose. I was happy for her, she deserved it, though I was a little surprised.

It was Saki. Apparently her quiet feelings had been noticed by Daichi for a long time, though it came to the forefront of his mind when he met her eyes at the top of the hill on our summer trip.

They still were a little awkward, dancing at an arm's length. Kioko and I were close in an embrace dancing. I spotted Ren and Toshi dancing wildly and made sure to stay on the opposite side of the bonfire from them.

Aoi and Maeko had decided to dance together and Aoi was making a show of it. I am sure they were upset that they didn't get Daichi, but they were still happy for Saki. I am glad they choose to enjoy this event rather than sulk to the side.

Izumi danced with some of the theater kids, switching partners constantly. Himiko was being a dutiful class prez and watching to make sure no one acted up.

I had to say, I have no regrets about this school year that I have had. Graduation was soon, and I was ready to face the world.

Damn, we didn't win.

It's okay Maeko, we won the respect of the people!

Aoi, what does that mean?

I'm sure we have our fans out there, and we will find love elsewhere. However, for now we should do the next episode preview!

There is a next episode?

Well duh, Koshien is coming up, plus we got our graduation. Oh and Riku and Kioko gotta go on a date don't they?

Yeah that is fair. Okay, next time! First Dates. Don't miss out!

That's the spirit Maeko!