Chapter 1:

The Sidebar


Sunlight poured into the classroom, lighting up the desks. I glanced over at Kota, my best friend, surrounded by girl classmates. His laughter filled the room.

I didn't mind Kota being popular; I just missed our hangout time together. Lately, it seemed like he was always busy with everyone else.

I tapped my pencil on the desk, hoping for a chance to talk to Kota. Our friendship was more important to me than anything else in this school. I just wanted to spend time with him, like we used to.

One of his friends, who I like to call the 'Harem' girl because she's always hanging out with Kota, said with a cheery voice, 'Kota, we all should go to karaoke together after school!'

With a smile, Kota responded, 'Sure, sounds like a great idea! Is everyone in later after school?'

All the girls replied yes with excitement. Then Kota turned his head and looked directly at me. 'Are you coming, Tanaka?'

Huh? Me, going with that group of girls? There are like 5 girls going to karaoke. I'm not going!

"Yeah, no thanks, Kota. I think you've got your hands full with your idol fans right now. I'd probably become a nuisance hanging out with you guys. Maybe next time.'

"Oh, come on? It's been a while since we've hung out together, and when was the last time we went to karaoke together? It would be great if you could come. You're the only guy I can trust. Come join us!'

Yep, here's Kota, the popular guy, my best friend, talking to me right now. My name is Tanaka Ogawa, but you can call me Tanaka. Wait a minute.

"What do you mean we haven't hung out in a while? We hung out just last week? Remember that expensive barbecue restaurant? Man, those were some expensive meat! Good thing you had some extra cash on hand that day, hehe.'

Kota laughed at my silly remarks. "Haha, true. But it feels like forever since we've really hung out. Come on, Tanaka. Join me later at karaoke, it'll be fun.'

Kota and I have known each other since middle school. We used to hang out every day at school and after school, but lately, we haven't been that close since we entered high school. You see, Kota's quite the ladies' man, though he's pretty average, to be honest. Not the sharpest tool in the shed either. I even gave him a nickname, 'Harem Mc'. You know what I mean, right? If not, look it up, hehe...

"Eh, I don't know, Kota... It's just not my scene.' Yeah, I'm not big on crowds. It's tough for me to open up, especially around a bunch of girls. Not my cup of tea.

With a pleading face, Kota kept asking me to come.

"Please, Tanaka... I'd feel weird going solo as the only guy in the karaoke booth. Pretty please?'

Man, he really wants me to go.

"Alright, fine, I'll tag along. But I won't be much help inside that karaoke booth, and I'm definitely not singing! Not with those kind of group, I won’t!'

With a happy expression, Kota got up from his chair and hugged me tightly. "Thank you, Tanaka! I'm so thankful for this, I mean it!'

Huh, I didn't realize it was such a big deal for him. Kota's usually Mr. Confidence in a crowd. Oh well.

I suppose I'll join in then.

After the class ended, the girls gathered around Kota's desk to discuss their plan for going to karaoke. One of the girls, sporting long white hair and a cheerful expression, took the lead.

"Okay, everyone! Are we all set for karaoke?"

"Yes!" The girls replied with enthusiasm. "But before we head out, though... Which karaoke spot nearby is the best? Also, did anyone bring snacks for us to share?"

A girl with short dark hair chimed in, "I know! There's a great place near the mini market. We should go there!"

"That sounds perfect! It's also close to the park, right? Let's go there then!"

Oh, shit, that's the spot where I used to go for a smoke and sit on those benchs. It's been a while since I've been to that park. Wonder what changes there. Hmm...

Another girl, with yellow hair, revealed two bags filled with chips and sodas. "I got it covered!"

A girl with blue-brunette hair, named Kiyoko, came up to me and asked, 'Are you tagging along with us, Tanaka?'

I replied with a mix of excitement and nervousness, 'Hell yeah! Of course, I'll be there for my best friend! Plus, I'll get some free drinks, hehe...'

She laughed at my silly remarks, 'Haha, of course you will, Tanaka.'

I've known her since middle school; she used to hang out with me and Kota back then. But after high school, with Kota becoming quite popular, she's become rather shy within the girls' group.

Oh, right. 'By the way, why did you decide to join us for karaoke, Kiyoko?'

She answered nervously and blushingly, 'Well... This would probably be the best chance for me to get closer to Kota and sing with him together!'

.......... Of course... the 'harem girl'...

Oh right, come to think of it. I think she's had a crush on Kota since back then. She was always quite close to him when the three of us used to hang out, and like always, I was the third wheel in that relationship, becoming the supportive character, if you could call it that. Oh well.

And the last girl in the group, with pink hair and rocking pigtails, shared her opinion about me.

'Ugh, you're coming with us as well? Just don't bother us too much in that booth, okay? And sing properly too! You sound like an old man singing a country song.'


'What's that supposed to mean?? I'll have you know that I sing professionally! And don't you yap about me; I'll tell you what, every time you 'perform' like an idol while singing songs in the booth, it's quite the sight to see, but when it comes to singing? You sound like a damn burning socket plug about to explode, hehe.'

After I delivered my best comeback and laughed my ass off, she got mad. 'Why you! Who do you think you are, huh? I sing PERFECTLY!!!'

Oh, right. This here is my friend, her name is Hibiki. I've known her since elementary school. She's what you'd call a 'gal' type. We used to be really close friends in middle school; she wasn't really into fashion and was quite shy. But after 9th grade, discovering gal fashion changed her a lot, along with her attitude. She likes to hang out with the popular kids in school, you see. That's probably why she changed her personality so much after entering high school, and that's likely the reason why she wants to hang out with Kota. Oh, Where was I again? Oh right.

She pinched my cheeks face as hard as she could.

'OW OW OW! OK!!! I'm sorry!... I'll keep my mouth shut, alright?'

She let go of my cheeks and grinned, 'Good. Now this time, I'm gonna show you how a real idol sings!'

Hehe, she's actually quite weak; she doesn't have strong muscles due to her condition since birth, and that's probably one of the many reasons why she acts tough. But I'll just play along to make her satisfied and happy, I guess.

Hmm, now that I look closely at the bags, I don't really see any of my favorite drinks there. Man, this is gonna suck, but I can't tell them. So I'll just deal with it then.

After that whole interesting conversation, the 'harem girl' leader announced, 'Alright then. It’s settled... Let’s go to the karaoke everyone!'"


Then, the girl with white hair turned to Kota with a blushing smile. "Let's go, Kota, it'll be so much fun!"

Kota, maintaining his calm demeanor, agreed, "Yeah, let's do it!" (These girls really don’t give two shits at me, huh?.)

Then, he turned to me. Oh boy... "Come on, Tanaka, ready to go? Btw, what kind of drink would you like?"

"Huh? You're buying me a drink? Why? We've already got plenty in those bags."

"Yeah, I know, but I bet those drinks aren't your favorite. I know you don't like the drinks in any of those bags, am I right?"

Damn... He really knows me too well! Kota, you are such a hero! This why you such a cool guy. He really is my best friend!

"Fine... How about grabbing me a Calpis from the vending machine instead?"

Kota smiled warmly, "Of course, Tanaka..." Hmm, this guy. I should get some cigarettes after this. I would probably get one pack in that vending machine close to that park. And besides, it’s been a while since I visited that place.

"Alright, let's head to the karaoke, Kota."


And with that, our group—two guys and five girls—set off for the karaoke.



Riko TT