Chapter 5:

Discreet Secrets

Couple That Can't Touch

The day went by quite fast since I didn't have to avoid talking or thinking too much about what to say. Being in my body for the first time in two days during class was relieving.

When Narumi-san suddenly approached me that morning and told me that we had already decided to go to the store together, I immediately knew it was Kozue's doing. I would've said yes too, but the weird thing was that she didn't tell me about it even though we chatted the previous night. I couldn't complain because I also forgot to tell her about Tsuga-san.

I called Yoshimura-san and told him to wait for my call to pick me up. Narumi-san and I met outside the school and left for the nearby town.

"Are you excited about the Egg Hunt?" Narumi-san asked me as we walked along.

"It sounds fun," I replied.

Though, I only noticed that there were posters everywhere in the school because one of the teachers talked about it today, I thought.

"Have you participated before?" she wondered.

"No. They didn't have many events at my previous schools."

"I see. Can I ask why you transferred here? Especially in the last year, that's not very common."

"I lost interest in the classes," I answered. "Most subjects were related to money. How to make more money. How to make the most of the money. History about money…"

"That sounds weird. They didn't have other subjects?"

"Only essential ones," I responded and took a long pause, unsure of if I should continue. Narumi-san stared at me since I opened my mouth to say more, so I kept going.

"I also got tired of fake people. They only cared about money and ignored anything that wasn't beneficial for them. But I can't blame them."

Narumi-san looked at me with furrowed brows. "Sorry if I asked too much," she apologized.

"It's fine. I got used to it," I said. "At least people in this school look truly interested in the classes. Well, most of them. They act like themselves and not like a sharp businessperson."

"I'm happy to hear that," she smiled.

Silence encompassed the environment for a few seconds. Not even cars drove by. But something felt strange; as if someone was following me. I looked behind me and saw no one. I was used to that feeling.

We stepped into the store after a few minutes of walking. I stood still and stared at how many people crowded the small aisles filled with mangas. They were mostly students.

There are so many, I thought.

"Is something wrong?" Narumi-san asked me.

"No. It's just my first time in a manga store. I usually have someone that buys them for me," I replied.

"Really? Well, you're here to buy them for you now, so what will you buy? There are collectibles too!"

"I'll look around first," I answered, trying not to drown under so many options.

"Sure. I'll go with you so you don't get lost," she giggled.

"Is it that easy to get lost in here?" I asked, concerned.

"I was kidding. But it kinda is," she responded and pulled on my arm. "Come on, let's start here."

She touched me.

We still don't know if I can swap bodies with someone other than Kozue, I thought.

I sensed a pair of eyes on me as Narumi-san dragged me deeper into the store, but I couldn't turn around to make sure if it was just my imagination or not; I knew it wasn't.

"Oh, I didn't ask what genres you like," she said as she stopped pulling me.

"I like anything as long as I like the story," I replied.

"We can take a look here, then. Fantasy!" she shouted. "It's been pretty hot lately."

"Mostly because of the anime adaptation of Spear Hero."

"You know it too? Have you watched it?"

"Only the first episode. It was interesting enough to make me read the manga."

"I know, right? It made me read it too!"

Narumi-san kept talking about it, but someone behind her made my eyes deviate to the other side of the aisle. They quickly walked away.

"Araki-kun?" Narumi-san called and turned around.

"Sorry," I apologized. "I thought it was someone I knew."

"Oh, I see," she replied. "So, do you want to buy the manga?"

"I already own it," I responded.

"Really? Okay. Then, what about this one—"

An uproarious growl resounded in my ear, followed by prolonged silence. I stared at Narumi-san, whose face was red.

"I-I think I need the bathroom," she sputtered and ran toward the other side of the store.

I took advantage of the situation to investigate who had been following me since we left school. I headed to the next corridor and found who I expected.

"Hello, Kawahara-san," I greeted.

"I told you to call me Kawahara," she replied. "How did you recognize me through my disguise?"

"The long, grayish, ponytail coming out of your cap, your glasses, backpack, and school uniform."

"Understood. I will hide better next time," she told herself.

"There shouldn't be a next time!" I exclaimed. "Why are you following us?"

"I'm not following you. I just don't like people knowing I read manga," she responded, still looking down at the manga on her hands.

"Kawahara-senpai, you're here early!" a guy with a blue apron approached. "My shift just started and you're already looking for mangas."

Did he call her senpai? They know each other? I wondered.

The apron guy looked down at the manga Kawahara-san held. "Oh, you're interested in romance now?"

"It's like trying to play a stealth game in Expert Plus mode," Kawahara-san sighed to herself. "I'm wandering around. I'm not searching for anything specific."

"Ah, got it! Ask me if you want any recommendations!" the guy smiled. He then finally noticed me. "Oh, you're the rich guy that just transferred."

"I guess…," I replied.

So, that's how they know me, I thought.

"Sorry for bumping into you and running away yesterday!" he apologized.

I didn't know what he was talking about, so I assumed Kozue was in my body when that happened.

"Oh, we didn't even introduce ourselves," he said and extended his arm. "I'm Tarō, nice to meet you—"

The boxes he was carrying lost their balance and fell. Several mangas scattered all over the floor. Everyone stood still to observe the scene.

Did he just let them fall to shake my hand? I asked myself, astounded.

A tall and muscular old man appeared behind Tarō-san and yelled, "Takuto, pick up those mangas now!"

"Y-Yes, boss! I'm sorry!" Tarō-san screamed as he began to pick them up. I couldn't blame him. That man was scary.

"Good afternoon, Kawahara-san. You're here early," the boss welcomed her calmly.

Even the boss recognizes her, I thought.

We tried to help Tarō-san but the boss wouldn't let us. He said it was Tarō-san's fault and job, so we walked over to the next aisle.

Kawahara-san took her cap off and tucked it into her backpack.

"Why were you hiding?" I asked again. "The real answer, please."

She stayed silent for a few seconds and answered while untying her ponytail, "Kozue Suzuka-san told me you were going to the manga store with Narumi Sae-san. I came to observe for research purposes."

"Research purposes?"

"Correct," she replied and ran her hand through her hair, which covered her whole back. "Narumi Sae-san and you just touched, didn't you?"

"We did. I was wondering the same, actually," I responded.

"We shall see what happens. Tell me if you feel something out of the ordinary."

"I will."

Someone peeking out from behind the tall shelves caught my attention, but Narumi-san returned at the same time. "Kawahara Enko?" she questioned.

"Hello, Narumi Sae-san."

"Hi! I didn't know you read manga too!"

"I was walking by the store and it looked interesting," Kawahara-san replied. "More importantly, I didn't know that you let people know you read manga," she added and pushed up her glasses.

"Araki-kun asked me to come with him, right?" she giggled.

"What?" I let out. "I thought you asked—"

"Anyways," she interrupted me. "We're just looking around and having fun. Oh, maybe you have a recommendation?"

Kawahara-san stayed silent even though she seemed to have something to say.

"It's okay if you don't," Narumi-san added.

"I have one," Kawahara-san said. She then raised her arm and pointed to a sign over one of the aisles.

I read it out loud, "Fanfiction?"

"I-It's okay!" Narumi-san blushed and jumped in front of me, trying to block my view with her arms. "We're actually enjoying the fantasy section, right?

"Sure," I faltered.

"As you prefer," Kawahara-san said. "I shall leave. It was interesting talking with you." She turned around and looked at me over her shoulder to say, "Take care."

I knew she meant something other than just saying goodbye, but I couldn't understand her.

Tarō-san approached her as she walked to the exit and asked, "Kawahara-senpai, you're leaving already? Did you find what you were looking for?"

"I told you I wasn't searching for something specific."

"Ah, right! Well, remember you can always ask me!"

"I will," Kawahara-san replied and left the store.

Narumi-san and I spent the next thirty minutes roaming through the store. Even though I didn't buy anything, she found two mangas she wanted to buy but didn't have enough money, so I bought them for her.

We walked out of the store with the sun about to hide behind the mountain.

"Araki-kun, you didn't have to buy them for me," Narumi-san said.

"It's fine. My parents earned more money than I spent one second after I bought them," I replied.

"Oh, I see," she chuckled.

Her phone vibrated once again and she reached for it in her pocket.

"You have been receiving notifications since a while ago," I said.

"Oh, you noticed?" she nervously giggled. "I didn't want to interrupt—Ah!" she screamed.

"Is everything okay?" I asked.

"I didn't notice the time! I need to run home or Mom will kill me!"

"Do you want to wait? My chauffeur can drive you."

"Isn't he going to arrive in about ten minutes?"

I nodded.

"Sorry, but I really need to leave now!"

"No problem. Be careful."

"You too!" she replied. "It was fun. Let's do it again someday!" she added as she ran away. She then crossed the street and walked up the stairs of the train station. It wasn't that far away from the store.

I stood still under a tree, observing the narrow river at the park on the other side of the street.

My first time in a manga store, I thought. Kawahara-san was here for research purposes, but I wonder why Kozue was here too.

Paranoid, I looked around to see if they were still spying on me, but I saw no one.

I also wonder what Father will say when I get back.

Ten minutes later, Yoshimura-san arrived and I got in the car.

"How was your day, Araki-sama?" he asked me.

"It was fun," I replied. "Did you tell Father?"

He took a couple of seconds to reply, "I'm sorry, but you know we have to."

"Yes. I know…"

My phone vibrated in my pocket and I reached for it.

"Have you felt anything out of the ordinary? Sleepiness? Dizziness? Nausea?" Kawahara-san sent in a message.

"No, I feel completely normal," I replied.

"Understood. It seems you can only swap bodies with Kozue Suzuka-san, for now. But we shall be patient and careful. I will research more."

"Sure. Thanks," I sent and put my phone back in my pocket.

Yoshimura-san drove us home between the mountains and we arrived when it was almost completely dark.

I stepped in, already expecting to argue with Father.

Fujisaki-san approached me to take my backpack and my shoes. "Thanks," I said. "Is Father home?"

"I am," Father replied from the other side of the hall. He then walked towards me.

"I see you found time to come today," I snarked.

Patreon iconPatreon iconMyAnimeList iconMyAnimeList icon