Chapter 25:

Day By Day

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

Six Days Later

Soft glows from globe lights strung around us illuminated Hawaiian themed decorations outside our local barbeque. Poignant aromas of grilled, slow roasted meat enchanted a bustling crowd as they feasted on hearty meals. Above the dining patio was a canopy lined with fake, colorful flowers that hid remaining traces of a setting sun. After one long day, it was time I wound down.

"Awww, why you leaving already, Nishi?" Mogami next to me said. He was clothed in a purple Hawaiian shirt that accentuated his muscular frame. "Party's just getting started! Ya-hoo!"

I chuckled from my wooden seat. "Did say ahead of time I can't stay long. There's something I gotta do back home."

"Shucks! Oh well!" He smacked me on the back. "Less competition for Summers' attention at least . . . !"

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 plastered 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 sent Mogami an icy stare. "She said her dad was swinging by to pick her up later, so watch out."

"Ahhhhh! 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, bahahaha!" He laughed with his palm to his face.

Hmmm . . . Actually, meeting Summers' dad might be a great chance to get on his good side. Wait, no! I slapped both my cheeks simultaneously. I already have a girlfriend! Asagiri! Even though she still says I should try finding someone more permanent than her.

"Well, at least you have some backup plans," I muttered back to Mogami then sipped some of my fruit drink. Ice cubes clinked within and floated about, like metaphors of aimless desires.

"Shit, I don't think I could pick up any chicks wearing this anyway!" Mogami pinched his Hawaiian shirt depicting tropical flowers. "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 is 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 along 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 proper attire, Kamikawa would order us full sets of clothes in advance.

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

Mogami grinned and started flexing his muscular arms. "Hungh! 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 tables gawked at us like we were some circus act. Flustered, I curled both hands over Hawaiian flowers around my neck to hide myself. Don't know if being seen publicly with him 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, looking to his side. "Think the mobile version just came out; Nemoto's probably playing it right now."

We stared towards our white-haired, tired friend sitting a table over, completely immersed within the phone he held sideways. Long bangs managed to blanket half his face, helping to hide two drowsy eyes.

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

Without his face leaving the screen, he mumbled something and sent me two quick goodbye waves from his seat.

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 guess."

"Mm!" Mogami cracked his knuckles as he stood up. "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 then wandered into the barbecue restaurant, disappearing within a rambunctious crowd.

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

I leaned onto a tiki statue by the entrance and examined my surroundings: the garnished restaurant patio around me had dozens of people dressed in Hawaiian clothes, relaxed as they feasted on roasted meats. Every table featured miniature hard-carved tikis, along with foreign hot sauces and potted hibiscus flowers. Obviously fake, but still pretty. Think those flowers are some of mom's favorites too.

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

From crowds within the restaurant, a small child wearing a dark-blue dress emerged. Her outfit vividly depicted plumeria flowers sorted in ornate, eye-catching patterns. She played with her black hair while peering around like someone searching for their parents.

And I hatched a scheme. With finesse, I walked up to her and smirked.

"Oh? Can I help you, young miss?"

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

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

Maybe I do deserve this . . . !

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

"Please Asada, have mercy."

"M'fukinendyou, Nizykhata!"

Then, the sound of wooden sandals clanging against concrete alerted us to an approaching, powerful force from behind.

"Now now you two, behave," our handsome manager wearing odd clothes said. He nudged his beige bangs off to the 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.

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

"I'll head pat your face in!"

"Might have a hard time reaching that high."

"RaHHHaAAAAHHH!" Asada started cutely jumping and swiping for my chin, eyes full of violence.

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 be nice to each other," he chided. "Hawaiian festivities are for making friends! Aloha!"

With a look of cringe, I turned to face him. "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 out 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 though! Just like everyone's shirts!"

"I told you earlier!" I pointed to his chest. "There's a difference between hibiscus flowers and cherry blossoms! Why didn't you just wear a normal Hawaiian shirt?"

He looked visibly distraught, as if 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 then started jotting something down.

Zero fashion sense! But I guess that's normal in his case.

Girls all around continued to ogle him, like he was writing personalized love letters. I couldn't help but feel a tad agitated at his popularity.

"By the way," he glanced towards me, "Mogami inside mentioned 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."

"Hmm? To Asada?" 

She was standing beside me. For just 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 seeing you off!"

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

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

The first inklings of suspicion arose in me as I recalled Asagiri's words about Asada: 'I saw her super starry-eyed peeking from around shelves, sneaking peeks at you! She's totally in love fam.'

No, no! I pushed that idea away. Asada's only personality is anger! She's not capable of love! But on the small chance she is . . . I peered down 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 tiny hands curled into fists.

"D-D-Dummy Nishikata! Dummy Kamikawa!" she stamped her feet before scurrying back into the restaurant.

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

"Hmmm . . ." Kamikawa caressed his feminine chin. "Should've at least complimented her dress. Pretty sure that's what she's been fishing from you all night."

"Huh? 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. "Okay. If you've already told Nemoto and Summers goodbye, I won't hold you up anymore."

Those two are in their own little worlds! "Yeah! See you on Monday then!"

We waved each other off as I waddled by tables full of food and satisfied patrons. Hearing a familiar voice, I turned my head back to see Mogami behind exiting the restaurant with one full-course plate. He ventured towards Kamikawa then 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 city night.


"I'm ho-ome!"

The familiar lights of my entrance hallway gave me a warm welcome, if no one else. I could hear faint sounds from our living room TV, indicating Asagiri 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 she unloading the welcome wagon after all?

But instead, the head of a pink-haired girl peeked around our hallway corner.

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

"My friend lives here, so I can drop by whenever I want! Humph!" She was careful to only show her head jutting around the corner.

"I kinda live here too though . . ."

Since our confrontation at the park, I'd been seeing this girl 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 obvious 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 puffing up in frustration.

"Don't be a bad influence!" she blurted. "She's already way different from the cute, shy angel she was in high school."

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

"Don't come any closer!" she yelled.

"Huh? Why not?"

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

Sakura slowly stepped out from the corner. She was draped in a hot pink, curve-hugging dress ideal for nightclubs. A valley of exposed cleavage commanded my attention, but it was soon directed towards an expensive, lavish-looking purse slinked around her shoulder.

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

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

Déjà vu. "Okay, you explain first."

"Humph!" She stepped past me and started putting on high heels that were hidden under rags. "I'm going to a gala party 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 many chances to come 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 rammed the paper into my chest. "It's my number. Don't contact me unless you gotta, ok? B-But maybe send me a text so I know yours 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 stalker again. "Call me and tell me about the Hawaiian stuff some other time."

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

"Stupid," she giggled, like a switch inside her flipped. "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 earlier words to compliment a girl's outfit. "Well, you look great in your dress. I'd probably ask you out if I was single."

"Hey, not so loud!" she harshly whispered, blushing bright red. "Asagiri might get upset if she hears that."

"She'd be proud more than anything."

Sakura fiddled with her curled hair before giggling again. "True, she's changed tons over time. Thanks for taking good care of her."

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

Her exposed shoulders tensed up. If she was ever guilty of something, there'd be no hiding it.

"H-He just wanted to help out Asagiri," she said. "I couldn't exactly warn you he was coming since I didn't have your number yet."

"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." I tucked her paper into my khaki shorts. "Tell Sonozaki I said 'hi'. You both did us a huge favor, whether Asagiri thinks or not."

"W-Whatever." Sakura put on her black face mask and opened the front door. "I'll pass your message on, but take care of yourself too—not just your girlfriend."

"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 today is . . .

I waddled into the living room and plopped onto our couch. Furbolt atop his cat scratch tower stared me down, like he was expecting something.

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

“Nyaa . . .”

I relaxed my arms behind my head and looked up towards the ceiling. There were no anime posters above, but the blankness felt like a good metaphor for those 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 cute, tan 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 replied. "Did you bring it?"

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

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

"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 not to 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," she grinned.


Suddenly, Asagiri closed in and started sniffing me. "Forget that. You smell like bomb food from your party bash. Bring me any?"

"My manager paid for everything so no."

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

"Lap pillow?" I glimpsed down towards her pajama pants. Even sheathed, her well-endowed thighs were a force to be reckoned with. Maybe I'd had a fantasy or two of being crushed between them.

"Actually, screw it." She sighed and tapped her lap. "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."

"She did! But what's wrong with Hawaiian clothes?" I pinched my buttoned-up red shirt. "Uhhh, I'm not the biggest fan of them either, honestly."

With a slight 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 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 down near me. Her whispered voice tried sounding seductive. "Maybe I should spoil you a bit more later, boyfriend."

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

"Doofus.” One last giggle sounded off before she opened the novel in her hands. “You’ve already read it, but knowing you, this'll be like your first time." 

As Asagiri began reading aloud the beginning of Daichi Ayanami's journey, I wondered what lay ahead for my future adventures? Almost three months with my government-issued girlfriend had whizzed by, but I wouldn’t let those memories be forsaken.

In just this short time, Asagiri had become my knight in shining armor who'd 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 legs, completing our house's small family. With one final yawn, I drifted off into dreamville as Asagiri's saintly voice lulled me into sleep.

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

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

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