Chapter 25:

Day by Day

My Government-Issued Girlfriend Can't Be This Cute!


6 Days Later


"Awww, why you leaving already, Nishikata? Party's just getting started!"

Soft glows from globe lights strung around us illuminated Hawaiian themed decorations outside our local barbeque eatery. Aromas of grilled, slow roasted meat wafted through the air as seated patrons chowed down. A green canopy awning above us lined with fake flowers hid the last traces of a setting sun.

"I said ahead of time, right?" I chuckled. "Can't stay long since there's something I gotta do."

My masculine coworker Mogami patted me on the back. "Shucks! Oh well! Less competition for Summers' attention at least . . . !"

From my seat, I glanced over to the next table over. Summers with a glass of alcohol in hand was clearly inebriated beyond recognition: the side of her blonde head was planted on the table while she mumbled nonsense in English. Since she'd keeled over earlier, her monstrous breasts had popped off at least two buttons from her buttoned-up, pink Hawaiian shirt.

"Better not be planning anything fishy," I replied to Mogami. "She said her dad was swinging by to pick her up later."

"Ahhhhh!" he laughed with his palm to his face. "You know I'm just messing with ya', Nishi! I got enough girls wrapped around my finger at the gym! Besides, even I don't wanna mess with a dad from Texas, ahahaha!"

Hmmm . . . actually, meeting Summers' dad might be a great chance to get on his good side. Wait, no! I slapped both my cheeks simultaneously. Asagiri is my girlfriend so I need to focus on her, even if she still says I should try finding someone more permanent!

"Well, at least you have some backup plans," I muttered, and took a sip of my fruit beverage. Ice cubes clinked within.

"Shit, I don't think I could pick up any chicks wearing this anyway!" Mogami pinched his purple Hawaiian shirt. "Who chose where we'd eat out again?"

"Kikuchi won the coin flips, and you know how much she loves this place."

"Meat is good! But the dress code's a drag!"

All of Kamikawa Book's employees were invited out for dinner to celebrate another successful month of business. On such occasions, we'd draw lots or flip coins to determine where we'd gather. Regardless of the venue, manager Kamikawa would enforce a dress code in accordance with the theme of wherever we ate—just for fun. All six present employees were currently wrapped head to toe in whatever Hawaiian garbs we owned, or if we didn't have attire for the theme, Kamikawa would order us full sets of clothes in advance.

"Kinda feel bad for Kikuchi always missing out though," I said, "since she likes going straight home after work to see her son."

Mogami started flexing his buff arm and did a side chest pose. "She's a woman of resolve! I like that! Now if only she'd convey her lustful desires to me, I'd be happy to fulfill them! Haha!"

Other patrons seated at nearby tables stared at us like some circus act. I curled both hands over the Hawaiian flower necklace around my neck to hide flustered cheeks. Don't know if being seen publicly with Mogami or Asagiri is more embarrassing! Extrovert demons!

"W-Well I'm gonna start heading out then." I stood and scooted out of my seat. "Let's play a game or something sometime though, yeah?"

"Semtex Legends?" he responded. "Think the mobile version just came out; Nemoto's probably playing it right now."

We gazed towards our white-haired, perpetually tired friend sitting a table over, completely immersed within the phone he held sideways. Spiky bangs managed to blanket almost half his face.

"Hey! I'm leaving now!" I tried to get his attention. "Take care of Summers until her dad gets here, 'k?"

Without his eyes leaving the screen, he mumbled something and sent me two quick waves in a row.

That's about as much of a reaction as I'm gonna get out of him . . . "Let's just hope Summers' dad is close by," I chuckled.

"Mm!" Mogami cracked his knuckles. "I'm going for round three on servings; sure you don't want more? Kamikawa is treating us."

"Nah, I'm stuffed. But I'll walk it all off on the way home."

"Bet! See ya' around next week then, Nishi!" He saluted me and wandered into the barbecue restaurant, disappearing within crowds.

Should probably see if I can see off Kamikawa too at least, I thought. Maybe he's still inside getting another order? Guess I'll just wait out here a bit.

I examined the garnished restaurant patio around me: myriads of people dressed in casual or Hawaiian attire relaxed as they feasted on premium meats. Every table featured miniature tiki statues carved out of wood blocks, complemented with foreign hot sauces and potted hibiscus flowers. Obviously fake, but still pretty. Think they're one of mom's favorite flowers too.

My hand reached into my khaki shorts and pulled out my cell phone. It was getting late, but I'd since recovered from last week's excursion, so I felt fine. What wasn't fine was the gaudy, red Hawaiian shirt I wore. I'd rather be wearing my work apron than this!

From a crowd within the restaurant, a small child sporting a bright Hawaiian outfit emerged. Her dress vividly depicted dozens of plumeria and hibiscus flowers, assorted to appear like petals falling to earth. She played with her black hair as she peered around like someone searching for their parents.

And I hatched a scheme.

"Oh? Can I help you, young miss?" I pompously told her.

"Dammit, Nishikata! Cut the crap, it's me!" my loli assistant manager barked.

"Ah, Asada! Almost didn't see you down there!" I reached down to pet her.

"RAAAaaaAAA!" her mouth opened wide before clamping over my fingers. "Chomp!"

I regretted things. In fact I regretted a lot of things in life, like when I accidentally walked in on my sister having sex, or when I'd joked about not buying Asagiri lollipops anymore. But I believed this marked the first time my antics came back to literally bite me.

You know what, I deserved this . . . !

Asada's head thrashed around like she was trying to saw off my fingers. Her little teeth gnawed and munched with surprising vigor as her eyes inhibited beast-like qualities.

"Please Asada, have mercy!"

"M'fukinendyou, Nizykhata!"

The sudden sound of wooden sandals clanging against concrete alerted us to an approaching, powerful force.

"Now now, you two; behave," our handsome manager said. He nudged beige bangs off to his side.

Excellent, it's Kamikawa! I'm saved! Glory to higher management!

Asada's jaws released their death clamp and I tended to my bite marks.

"He started it!" she said, suspiciously covering her mouth, followed by the sounds of lip licking.

"Not my fault your head is the perfect height for head patting!"

"I'll head pat your face in! Next time you're on your knees!"

Two graceful hands found their way onto our heads as Kamikawa head patted us both. He was the tallest employee, and the scene attracted coos and giggles as women everywhere fawned over him.

"Come on, let's all be nice to each other," he chided. "Hawaiian festivities are for making friends! Aloha!"

I turned to face him, a look of cringe on my face. "You're one to talk! You wore a yukata today! To a Hawaiian themed restaurant!"

"Ehhh?" He looked down at his clothes: Kamikawa was wrapped in a gray, traditional yukata illustrated with darkened cherry blossoms. The black band around his waist appeared made of silk. "What's wrong with my attire?"

"The theme was Hawaiian, but you're wearing Japanese clothes!" Asada and I blurted.

"It has flowers on it though! Just like everyone's shirts!"

"I told you earlier!" I said. "There's a difference between hibiscus flowers and cherry blossoms! Why didn't you just order an extra Hawaiian shirt for you?"

He looked visibly distraught, like someone told him his whole life was a lie. "Oh my! How careless! I'll need to make a note for next time!" Kamikawa pulled out a notepad and pencil and started jotting something down.

Zero fashion sense! But I guess that's normal. Girls continued to ogle him, like he was writing personalized love letters.

"By the way," he glanced towards me, "Mogami inside mentioned that you were leaving now?"

"Oh, yeah!" I made a quick bow. "Thanks for the meal! There's just something at home I gotta handle; sorry I couldn't stay long."

"Don't mention it, but I'd be more apologetic towards our friend here," he looked down beside him.

"To Asada?" For a moment, her eyes glinted with girly affection in my direction.

"Mm! As soon as Mogami told us you were leaving, she rushed out to try and see you off!"

"Wha—no I didn't!" she yelped. "I, uhhh, just wanted to tell him off for slacking at work today! Humph!"

"Well, you know how she is," Kamikawa winked at me.

The first inklings of suspicion started arising in me as I recalled Asagiri's words: 'I saw her super starry-eyed peeking from around shelves to sneak peeks at you! She's totally in love fam.'

No, no. I pushed the thought away. Asada's only personality is anger! She's not capable of love! But on the small chance . . . I glanced towards her again.

With a flustered face, her trembling eyes shot up and down, unable to keep constant eye contact with me. She started twiddling her fingers before muttering little squeaks; then her hands curled into fists.

"D-D-Dummy Nishikata! Dummy Kamikawa!" she cutely yelled before scurrying back into the restaurant.

"See! That's it!" I proclaimed, pointing at the evidence. "She just can't stand the sight of me!"

"Hmmm . . . Should've at least complimented her dress; pretty sure that's what she's been fishing for all night."

"Huh?" I crossed my arms with a pout. "Why should I?"

"Ara ara," he said, sending nearby girls into a frenzy. "Well, I'll make you two get along one day, one way or another."

"Don't hold your breath. But yeah, gotta be off now." I checked my phone one final time. "Fridays are usually big days for me."

Kamikawa looked towards his two incapacitated employees back at the tables. "Well, if you've already told Nemoto and Summers goodbye, I won't hold you up anymore."

They're in their own little worlds . . . "Mm! See you on Monday then!"

We waved each other off as I waddled by tables full of hungry patrons. Before I turned my head forward, I noticed Mogami exiting the restaurant with a plate full of meat. He ventured towards Kamikawa and started up chit chat.

An air of mystery still surrounded those two, and whatever pasts they may have shared in their youth. Perhaps Kamikawa's father was the missing link, but heck, if my personal history deserved to be buried, who's to say theirs didn't?

I stepped out from underneath the green canopy and into a glistening night.

*

"I'm ho-ome!"

The familiar lights of my entrance hallway gave me a warm welcome at least, if no one else. I could hear faint sounds from our living room TV, indicating my girlfriend partook in her usual freeloading behavior.

But we had something of a date today.

As I kneeled over to untie my shoes, footsteps far down the hall casually made their way towards me. Hmmm? Is Asagiri unloading the welcome wagon after all?

Soon, the top of a pink-haired girl's head peeked around the corner.

"Huh? Sakura?" I yelled, surprised. "You're visiting again?"

"My friend lives here too, so I can drop by whenever I want! Humph!"

"I don't think that's how it works . . ."

Since our confrontation at the park, I'd been seeing her in a new light—though not an entirely positive one. Apparently, I had her to thank for helping prevent Asagiri's suicide in high school, but Sakura still harbored some resentment towards me for whatever reason.

Must be something in the air.

I got back up to my feet and stepped onto our wooden floor. "Where's Asagiri?"

"She's upstairs changing into pajamas, but sounds like you two have something planned for tonight?"

"Uhhhh, watching anime?" The reality is way cringier.

I could see Sakura's face poking around the corner, puffing up in frustration.

"Don't be a bad influence on her!" she said. "She's already a far cry from the shy angel she was in high school."

"Wish I could've seen that." I started walking into the hall, but Sakura shot out her arm like a claw.

"Don't come any closer!" she yelled, followed by a quick hiss from her lips.

"Huh? Why not?"

"Urg . . . " Her face blushed. "Fine. I'll just show you."

Sakura stepped out into the entryway. She was draped in a hot pink, curve-hugging dress ideal for nightclubbing. Her hair I hadn't paid attention to sported wavy curls that snaked past her eye-catching cleavage. A lavish, designer purse hung over one shoulder, and her trademark trench coat hung over the other.

"What's with the getup?" I gulped, trying to avoid staring.

"You're one to talk! What's with the Hawaiian clothes?"

Déjà vu. "Ok, you first."

"Humph!" She stepped past me and started putting on high heels that were hidden under rags. "I'm going to a gala with friends. I invited Asagiri last Saturday too, but apparently she already made plans by the time she saw my text."

Ah, that's probably the text Asagiri's phone got that night. Too bad we were in the middle of melodrama! "You just dropped by to say hi then?"

"Yeah, the gala's in the area anyway. I don't get a lot of chances to visit."

"You can come over whenever, but maybe a heads-up next time would be nice."

She opened her mouth to say something but stopped midway. Instead, she reached into her purse and pulled out a pen and slip of paper.

"Huh?" I said, watching her write.

"Here!" She slammed the paper slip into my chest. "It's my number; don't contact me unless you gotta, 'k? B-But maybe send me a text so I know your number too . . . "

Something about this felt oddly sinful. "Should I tell Asagiri?"

"Do what you want! Humph!" Her high heels clanged on the floor as she shifted her trench coat on, covering herself up like a mummy. "You can call me and tell me about the Hawaiian stuff some other time."

"It's really not as interesting as you probably think it is."

"Stupid," she earnestly smiled. "I'm just trying to make small talk. It was nice seeing you again, Nishikata."

"Eh?" I wasn't sure how to respond. All I could remember were Kamikawa's words to compliment a girl's outfit. "You looked great in your dress. I'd probably ask you out if I didn't already have a girlfriend."

"Hey, not so loud," she whispered, twirling a strand of hair around her finger. "Asagiri might get upset if she heard that."

"She'd probably be proud more than anything."

Sakura chuckled, beaming another captivating smile. "True. She's changed a lot over time. But thanks again for taking good care of her."

That reminded me. "By the way, about Sonozaki . . ."

She tensed up like a guilty person. "H-He just wanted to help out Asagiri. I couldn't exactly warn you he was coming since I didn't have your number yet."

"Sure sounds like you came up with lots of reasons to get my number."

"Hey! Don't word it like that! I'm not indecent!"

"Nah, I'm just teasing. Give Sonozaki my regards too if you can; you both did us a huge favor, whether Asagiri thinks so or not."

Sakura put on her black face mask and opened the door. "I'll pass it on, but take care of yourself too, not just Asagiri."

"Heh, no promises. See you around though, Sakura." I waved goodbye as she closed the door behind her.

Now then, all that leaves for the rest of the day is . . .

I made my way into the living room and plopped onto our couch. Furbolt atop his cat scratch tower stared me down.

"No, you're not getting extra food. You're on a diet, remember."

“Nyaa . . .”

I relaxed my arms and looked up towards the ceiling. There were no anime posters above, but the blankness felt like a good metaphor for voids within me I'd always been trying to fill. Since Asagiri moved in, everything including the house itself had felt more complete—filled in with her moochy, lovable presence.

And tonight, we'd be just one step closer to at least one of our dreams.

A series of footsteps echoed down the stairwell. Soft feet sheathed in softer socks trotted along until a lightly tanned girl strode into the living room.

"Huh? What I'd miss?" Asagiri said. She was dressed in gray pajamas and wore Noriko's signature cat ears.

"Right on time," I responded. "Did you bring it?"

She reached under armpit and pulled out a small book. "Yup! Volume 2 of Dominion's Paradise! Right here!"

"Still surprised you scheduled a reading date right after we got back from the river."

"We needed a chill pill, so something to look forward to would give us both a boost."

Asagiri sat right beside me and scooted close. Lingering scents of floral shampoo wafted around her, enticing me like some hungry bee.

"Well? Did you see Sakura on her way out?" she asked with an annoyed expression.

Minefield! Right answers only! "Oh yeah, we chatted for a bit but that's it, haha." Probably better I don't mention I got her number for now.

"Did her dress seduce you?"

"M-Maybe a little."

"Hoh? Guess I need to up my appeal a bit."

"Hmmm?"

Suddenly, Asagiri closed in and started sniffing me. "Forget that. You smell like bomb food from the place you went to. Bring me any?"

"My manager paid for everything so no."

"Should've forked over extra cash for your girlfriend, and I might've given you a lap pillow."

"Lap pillow?" I glimpsed down to her well-endowed thighs.

She sighed and tapped her lap. "Actually, screw it., I'll read Dominion's Paradise for you while you get the best seat in the house."

Heaven incoming. "Are you sure? You're not gonna unleash Kill Switch on me?"

"I will if you ever wear Hawaiian clothes again. Surprised Sakura didn't make a fuss about them."

"What's wrong with Hawaiian clothes?" I pinched my red shirt's short sleeve. "They're, uhhh, actually I'm not the biggest fan of them either, haha."

With a blush, she twirled the lollipop in her mouth like she was pleased we agreed on something silly. "Well hurry up! Offer isn't gonna last all night."

"Right away!" I aimed my head and lay flat on my back, plopping myself right onto her lap. The sensation felt more luscious than I could have imagined. God is good.

Soft fingers interwove themselves into my hair as Asagiri hunched over to whisper. "Maybe I should spoil you a bit more later, boyfriend."

"Please do," I flirtily replied. She smiled and gently flicked my forehead. “Ow!”

"Dummy.” She opened up the volume. “You’ve already read it, but let’s get to it then.”

As Asagiri began reading aloud the next era of Daichi and Sanae’s adventures, I wondered what lay in store for my future adventures? Almost three months with my government-issued girlfriend had whizzed by, but I wouldn’t let these memories be forsaken.

Asagiri became my knight in shining armor who saved me from myself. Does that mean the GiG program actually functioned as intended? As a system developed to save individuals from converting to DeLightful ideologies? Whatever the case, all that mattered was the here and now.

I felt Furbolt hop onto the couch and curl up on my chest, completing the house's small family. My hand reached to stroke his soft fur one last time before Asagiri's saintly voice lulled me further into sleep.

Pages turned, friendships flourished, and a new, lingering fondness instilled itself within.

Day by day, I'd make sure life continued for Asagiri and me.


[To be continued?]