Chapter 7:

Immoral Suspicion

Couple That Can't Touch

My eyes opened wide and my head went blank when Araki-kun accused me of also being at the store. Sweat ran down my forehead as I stood still in front of him.

How does he know?! I screamed inside.

"W-Well…," I stuttered as I thought of a lie, but Araki-kun wouldn't take his eyes off mine. It was the first time I saw his real, intimidating, expression. He wasn't angry, but it felt like I had gone back to my job interviews. I wanted to run and hide under a desk.

"Fine, I'll tell you," I sighed and began telling Araki-kun the whole story of what happened the previous day.

I had been walking across the bridge at the school's entrance when I heard Narumi shouting Araki-kun's name from the other side of the bridge.

A hammer smashed against my brain. I forgot to tell Araki-kun about the appointment!

I scrambled through the people to observe them from far away so they didn't notice me.

"Araki-kun, here you are," Narumi said. "Do you want to go to the store today?"

He didn't respond immediately and my heart started pounding. I didn't know how he was going to react.

"Sure. I'm looking forward to it," he replied.

"I spaced out for a moment after that because of a weird feeling, but when I snapped back to myself, the two of you had already gone inside. Anyway…"

Classes began and I couldn't stop feeling uneasy about Narumi and Araki-kun going to the store later. Even the teachers noticed I was out of it.

The break arrived and I met with Kawahara in one of the gardens. It was the first time we were alone since we met on the first day of high school.

"Kawahara, Araki-kun and Narumi are going to the manga store after school," I told her without any hesitation.

She looked up from her phone and stared at me, emotionless.

"Did he tell you?" she questioned.

I paused before replying, "No…"

"Did you spy on them? Or maybe you were controlling Araki-kun's body when you made the appointment?"

"Both…," I responded. "B-But that's not the point! Shouldn't we follow them?"

"Why?" she asked. "Oh, is it like those television shows where they follow the person they like when they go out with someone else?"

"What? No! I say it because what if he swaps bodies with anyone he touches? Maybe it only works between guys and girls."

"I'm sorry, I thought watching that show was going to be useful someday," she apologized. "You're right, however. Araki Koji-san and I have already touched, but he was in your body, maybe that led to a different outcome. I'm an appalling researcher."

"You don't need to be that harsh with yourself," I said.

"Good idea. We will follow them after class."

I nodded. "And we should be careful of Narumi. Even though we don't know if she's guilty, she might try something on him."

Kawahara pushed her glasses up and replied, "That's correct. If she does it today again, there's a high chance she did it back then."

We didn't talk much after that and enjoyed the breeze until the break ended. I didn't feel that nervous anymore knowing Kawahara was with me.

Classes ended and we sprinted to the bridge. We hid behind one of the trees and peeked out to look for Araki-kun and Narumi.

"What's the plan?" I asked Kawahara, but she was already taking something out of her backpack.

Her hand came out and held a grayish cap.

"I'm always prepared for a situation like this," she said while putting the cap on.

"A cap?"

"It's a disguise."

I stayed silent. That's a disguise? I thought.

"Oh, they are leaving already," Kawahara said, looking behind me.

I turned around and Araki-kun and Narumi walked out of the school. I tapped Kawahara's shoulder and signaled her to follow after them.

We waited a bit before following them to have some distance between us and them. We then walked as normally as we could, but Kawahara's disguise made me uncomfortable. She looked even more suspicious. Though her hair coming out from behind the cap was long and smooth.

Kawahara kept tapping away at her phone the whole time while we followed them. Sometimes she even bumped into people. She was about to bump into someone again, but the guy dodged her. She didn't even notice, so I turned around and apologized for her.

"I'm sorry!"

When I turned back, Kawahara was far ahead from me, getting extremely close to Araki-kun and Narumi, who slowed down.

I pulled her behind a building on the corner of the street.

"What are you doing?" she asked me.

"You need to pay attention to where you're walking!" I nagged. "What are you doing with your phone?"

"Taking notes about what is happening."

"Well, try to take fewer notes. Let's go before we lose them."

We followed for a couple minutes more and arrived at the store when Narumi pulled Araki-kun deeper into the store.

She touched him, I thought.

Kawahara immediately typed on her phone and, since she had a cap on, decided the best thing to do was to get closer, but I didn't agree. I decided to hide in an aisle farther away.

"Araki-kun?" said Narumi from a couple of aisles away.

"Sorry. I thought it was someone I knew," Araki-kun apologized.

They already saw Kawahara, I told myself and sighed.

Kawahara arrived next to me a moment later and told me the little she heard and saw. We then decided to risk it and go to the aisle next to theirs.

Kawahara grabbed a manga, acting as if she was reading. It was a smart move, so I thought of doing the same, but a loud growl distracted me.

Was that Araki-kun or Narumi? I wondered.

Narumi then dashed out of the aisle and headed to the back of the store.

"Kawahara, I'll follow her," I said. "Stay here and keep an eye on Araki-kun."

She nodded and I walked off.

Narumi entered the bathroom and I stepped in behind her. She got into a cubicle and, even if she tried to hide it, the farts were very loud. I got into the cubicle next to hers and waited for her to finish.

Suddenly, a phone started ringing and Narumi responded, "Why are you calling me? Just tell me what I should do now."

I got closer to the cubicle's wall to listen better, but she only hummed a few times.

Who is she talking to? I wondered.

I came out of the cubicle.

"Are you sure?" Narumi asked. "Fine, I'll do it."

She flushed the toilet and I ran out of the bathroom. I then headed back to Kawahara, but Araki-kun was already with her, so I went to the next aisle.

I took a manga from the shelf to blend in, but I left a gap to see into the other aisle. I saw Araki-kun and Kawahara standing in front of me, so I quickly crouched down.

My heart hammered in my chest.

That was close! I thought.

Narumi arrived and asked, "Kawahara Enko?"

They chatted for a few minutes before Kawahara said goodbye. I was going to follow her, but Tarō stopped her right before she walked out. Everyone looked at Kawahara so I quickly hid back.

Tarō! I yelled in my head.

I waited for him to leave and took the first opportunity to walk out without them noticing me.

Kawahara and I met outside.

"What should we do now?" I asked her.

Kawahara pushed back her glasses before answering, "We should leave before something else happens and they find out about you too."

"You're right," I said. "But I can't help but feel guilty."

"Remember this was for research purposes," she added. "And to make sure Narumi Sae-san didn't do anything immoral. Did something happen in the bathroom? You took a while to return."

"Yes. Someone called her while she was in there, but I didn't hear a name. She only asked them what she should do next."

"That is strange," said Kawahara. "Maybe someone was guiding her to get closer to Araki Koji-san."

"W-Why would she want to do that?" I asked. I already imagined the answer, but I didn't want to believe it.

"I'm not sure. Relationships are not my forte," she responded.

We stayed silent for a moment.

"I guess we should tell Araki-kun about Narumi," I said.

"I agree. Let's do it tomorrow in the laboratory," she replied.

I nodded and then we said goodbye. We returned to our homes and the rest of the day passed normally.

Classes next morning went by as usual. The break arrived and Kawahara and I walked to the laboratory as we planned to.

"And here we are now," I said, finishing telling what happened the previous day to Araki-kun. Though I avoided telling most of my feelings and thoughts.

He stared at me for a moment before talking. "I have a few questions. The less important one first; why did Tarō-san call Kawahara-san senpai?"

"I was his tutor last year," Kawahara answered. "He was about to fail the year and get expelled, so Natsuhiko-sensei asked me to help him."

"She even made him get his grades into the top ten!" I added.

"Is that so? He and Natsuhiko-sensei must be grateful," Araki-kun replied.

"Tarō is more than grateful," I grinned and playfully elbowed Kawahara a couple of times.

We stood still silent for a few seconds.

"And telling me what happened yesterday explains why you were spying?" Araki-kun questioned.

I looked down at the floor. I knew what we did was wrong, no matter the excuse, but I believed it was reasonable.

"We were worried about you," I responded.

"Worried because of Narumi-san?" he asked back.

"Yes, since she's known for doing… bad things."

"Like drugs? Smoking?"


"Seriously?" Araki-kun wondered.

"Yes. A guy was expelled because of her," I answered.

Araki-kun stared at me with furrowed brows; I looked down at the floor again.

"He was found with cigarettes inside his backpack," Kawahara continued. "Everyone said it was Narumi Sae-san who gave him the cigarettes so they could smoke together."

"Was there evidence? Are you sure that was what happened?" Araki-kun remarked.

"Well, no…," I said. "But the rumors—"

"Rumors," he interrupted me. "I came here to escape from them, but it seems like they are everywhere. There are also some about me."

"But rumors about Narumi make sense," I added.

"Don't mine make sense too?" Araki-kun questioned.

His question came at me like a bullet. He was right, I still didn't know much about him nor Narumi. But my chest still felt weird every time I thought about it.

"I'm sorry, Kozue, but I won't believe anything until I see it with my own eyes," he stated.

"That's the logical thing to do," I said. "I should be the one apologizing. I was just worried about you…"

"T-Thank you for worrying," he stuttered.

Why did he stutter? I wondered. My face then got hotter after realizing it and I looked away. I didn't mean it like that!

Another excessively-long silence filled the laboratory. Kawahara stared at us and pushed her glasses up.

"By the way, I forgot to tell you about Hisaki-san," Araki-kun said.

"Hisaki-san?" I questioned. "Oh, you mean Tsuga-san. What happened?"

"He asked you—me controlling your body—to study together, so I said yes out of surprise and not to look rude. Sorry."

"Oh, don't worry, I don't mind," I replied. "What day?"

"Tomorrow," he responded. "Are you going to go?"

"I am," I answered. "Why?"

"No reason in particular," he replied and turned away.

I stared at him with one of my brows raised. "Are you sure?"

"It's just that he reminded me of my classmates at my old school," he confessed.

"Really? Why?" I wondered.

"He acts like them. He's a gentleman on the outside, the perfect guy. But on the inside…"

"I see where you're going. But you shouldn't judge a book by its cover, right?" I smiled. "Though I must admit we've known each other for less than a week and I already feel something—"

The door of the laboratory slid open behind Araki-kun.

"Kawahara-san? Kozue-san? Why are you here?" Yasue-sensei asked us.

"Yasue-sensei!" I shouted in shock. "We were just—"

Narumi suddenly appeared from behind him and stood next to him.

Oh no, I thought.

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