Chapter 9:

Behind the Trust

Couple That Can't Touch

The bush was barely leafy enough to hide behind it and, fortunately, Kozue's short body allowed me to crouch down more easily. Though I felt an abrupt and sharp pain in my ankle when I got in position.

"Did you put the cigarettes inside Daisuke-san's backpack?" Kozue interrogated Narumi-san.

She went straight for it, I thought.

Narumi-san's smile froze as well as her words.

"Do you think I did it?" she replied after the silence. "Would you believe me if I said I didn't?"

Judging by Kozue's attitude earlier that day, she wouldn't. However, although Narumi-san kept smiling, her brows arched down, never looking away from Kozue. If she was lying, it would be the best acting I had ever seen.

"How can you prove it?" Kozue questioned. I could only see her—my body's—back.

Narumi-san's smile disappeared. "Prove it? Why would I need to do that in the first place?"

Tears began to slide down her cheeks. "You know, one of the reasons I like you is that you understand what being targeted by unfair gossip feels like."

She likes me? I asked myself.

"Isn't it unfair that I have had no friends ever since that happened?" she continued as her tears dropped to the ground. "I went months without talking to anybody until Mino, Kanna, and Riko approached me. They have helped me a lot. Including tips on how to get closer to you."

So, she was following their ideas, I thought. Is this one of them?

Kozue stayed silent and, as much as I wanted to, I couldn't see her face.

"You want to hear the truth?" Narumi-san asked, brushing off her tears. "I liked Daisuke a lot, everyone knew that, but I never knew how to approach him. When the second year started, I finally psyched myself up to talk to him more."

Her voice softened more and more as she spoke.

"But, not even a week later, the whole school suddenly started talking about him being expelled and murmuring my name behind my back. He stopped coming to school after that. I tried to contact him, but he never replied. He never came back…"

I sighed.

Did that mean that someone framed her? I wondered. Maybe someone that also liked Daisuke-san.

Kozue's fists closed tight. Was she upset about what happened to Narumi-san? Or did she think she was faking it?

"I didn't put those cigarettes in his backpack!" Narumi-san yelled. "Why would I? No one believes me. Because I'm popular? Because I'm pretty? Bullcrap."

Her swearing shocked me. She must've been keeping all of that inside for a long time. I understood that.

"There's the truth. I hope you—"

Kozue stepped closer to her and embraced her.


After a few seconds of confusion, Narumi-san hugged Kozue back, probably thinking she was me. Even from far back, I noticed how tight they were hugging.

Narumi-san then started crying. I couldn't help but smile at Kozue's decision to comfort her.

We might as well tell her, I thought and stepped out of the bush.

I approached them, but Kozue was facing the opposite direction and Narumi-san was busy crying, so I coughed.

"Suzuka?" Narumi-san said when she saw me. She then wiped her tears away, not letting Kozue go. "Guess who's winning Koji-kun over," she smirked.

Koji-kun? I thought.

"That's Kozue," I told her.

"What? Now you're crazy? I'm obviously hugging Koji-kun," she replied.

Kozue stepped back from Narumi-san and grinned, "Hi! And she's Araki-kun!"

Narumi-san's smirk turned into confusion. "What are you talking about? You think I'm dumb enough to fall for something like that?"

"And you think I would smile like that?" I asked her back.

She took a short pause and replied, "Well, maybe…"

"We—I decided to tell you our secret because it's only fair after making you cry."

I hope Kozue isn't mad at me, I thought.

I looked at her face and she was still grinning. I didn't know what to feel seeing myself grin like that.

"Oh, so you told me because you have pity on me?" Narumi-san asked.

"N-No, I didn't mean it like that," I stuttered.

"I know, I'm kidding," she chuckled. "But how does that work? Isn't it like magic?"

"It is, though we only know that we swap bodies every time we touch. We are still figuring it out," I replied.

She stared at me for a moment. "If that's true, it means I was talking to Suzuka inside your body the whole time?"

"Yep!" Kozue grinned.

Narumi-san blushed and walked between us. We turned around.

"But now I can see what you've been going through," Kozue continued. "Sorry for believing all the rumors. That is if you're not lying, of course."

Narumi-san stood silent, facing the opposite direction.

"You know, there was a time when I thought you were the one that framed me, but I couldn't wrap my head around that being possible."

She thinks highly about Kozue, I told myself in surprise.

"Anyway, t-thank you for listening," Narumi-san stuttered. "And don't get me wrong, it's not like I believe something as dumb as you swapping bodies, but I won't tell anyone."

Kozue and I smiled. It's nice when she's not aggressive for once, I thought.

"Be careful, Suzuka, I won't give up," Narumi-san continued. "You'd better hurry if you don't want to lose," she said while looking away from us. She then started walking away.

"Wait," I stopped her. "Why did you want to meet here?"

"Oh, I wanted to ask if Koji—I mean—if you liked Suzuka, but I guess it would be awkward if I asked now," she giggled.

My face suddenly got hot.

"Well, it's not like it matters," she added. "Bye-bye!"

She stepped around the corner of the warehouse and disappeared from our sight. Kozue and I stayed silent for way too long. Our eyes met once, but we instantly looked away.

Her face is red too, I thought. But why? It's not like…

"Kozue, what was she referring to when she said you'd better hurry if you don't want to lose?" I asked.

"I-I don't know," Kozue laughed nervously.

The conversation halted once again.

So, it is like that, I told myself. Does that mean me too?

"We should get going!" Kozue said, interrupting my thoughts.

"Oh, sure," I nodded.

We crossed the bridges between the high school buildings that connected to the central gardens before we arrived at the entrance where Kawahara-san was walking towards the gate.

"Kawahara!" Kozue shouted.

Kawahara-san turned around and replied, "You're still here."

"How was your visit to the staff room?" Kozue asked.

"Yasue-sensei explained the rules I broke and the dangers. However, the report letter for my parents is remarkably short. I wonder why."

"Really? I wonder too," Kozue said.

"How did the meeting go? Did she cry excessively?" Kawahara-san asked.

"Just a little bit," Kozue giggled, scratching her head.

Kawahara-san's eyes widened. "I guessed correctly?" she smirked.

"It was interesting," I said. "She told us everything she has been going through."

"Can you believe her? Did she show you proof?" Kawahara-san asked.

"As much as it hurts me to admit it, I'm pretty sure she was telling the truth," Kozue responded.

"I'm sure too," I added.

"I understand," said Kawahara-san. "Did something else happen?"

"Oh, we also told her that we can swap bodies," Kozue answered.

Kawahara-san's brows lifted a few millimeters. "That's… unexpected. How did she react?"

"She looked confused," Kozue replied. "And I don't know if she believes us, but she didn't reject it."

"Interesting," Kawahara-san said. "We can use her as a test subject; follow the process from not knowing about the phenomenon to acceptance."

Did she just say that we can use her as a test subject? I asked myself.

Kawahara-san pushed her glasses up. "I fathom you won't be able to swap bodies for some time. If my hypothesis is correct, you have around thirty more minutes."

"Right," Kozue said and scratched her head. "What should we do, Araki-kun?"

"Maybe we should wait. Going home with swapped bodies would be very awkward. We know practically nothing about each other."

"Yeah, you're right," she replied and looked at the ground. "Well, I should call home to tell my dad I'll arrive a bit later."

"And I'll tell my chauffeur to wait."

"Sounds like you have a plan," said Kawahara-san. "I'm going home. I need to deliver this report to my parents."

"I hope they don't scold you," Kozue told her.

"They will understand. Have a nice day, Kozue Suzuka-san and Araki Koji-san," she said and turned around. "Oh, send me a message when you swap back to your bodies so I can measure the time."

We both nodded and she walked away.

Kozue took my phone out of my backpack and turned it on. "Wait, this isn't even my phone."

"Right. Where's yours?" I questioned.

"Give me my backpack. I'll start the call and you'll talk to my dad," Kozue said.

"I have to?" I asked as I gave Kozue her backpack.

"Yes," she responded and took her phone out. "It'll be weird if I talk to my dad with your voice."

"That's true," I replied.


"What is it?"

"I forgot I couldn't pay for more calling minutes this month," she laughed, deadpan.

"You can use mine."

"Oh, really? Thanks."

Kozue started the call and I talked for her. Luckily, it was short and straightforward. It was the first time I heard her father's voice.

We stepped out of the school grounds and approached my chauffeur, waiting inside the SUV. I made Kozue tell him to wait for my phone call. She acted a little weird, but everything went well. Then we headed to the nearby town.

It was the second time I had come to the town. Though this time, Kozue and I wandered around the short streets populated with homes and small shops. We didn't chat much, but it wasn't awkward.

We stopped to buy snacks at a convenience store and arrived at a park a couple of streets away. Kids played around and we sat on a bench underneath the shadow of a tree.

"So, ten more minutes?" Kozue asked as she chewed her pineapple-stuffed bread.

"Yes, according to Kawahara-san," I replied.


"Please talk only after you've finished chewing."

"Oh, sorry," she nervously giggled.

It was weird looking at myself eating like that. My body's cheeks puffed up like a hamster as Kozue took more and more bites of her bread.

I stared down at the potato chips I held.

"Why aren't you eating?" Kozue asked with her mouth full.

Is she always this inappropriate? I wondered.

"I've never eaten potato chips," I answered. "I'm not supposed to eat any junk food."

"Really?! Oh, are you on a strict diet?"

"Not strict, but they don't want me to fall into an endless pit of sorrow from which I'll never escape. Or something like that."

"Are you serious? They make it sound horrible when it's not that bad. I was in very good shape and still ate a lot of chips in middle school!"

Her smile narrowed down after saying it.

"Also, you're in my body, it won't affect yours," she grinned.

"Yes, I guess you're right."

"So, will you eat them?"

"Sure…," I answered.

I ripped the bag open and looked inside; they were yellow and shone like gold. My jaw dropped on its own. I took one chip out and slowly moved my hand to my mouth. The chip snapped as soon as my teeth came together and it kept crunching as I chewed. Then I swallowed it.

"Delicious!" I let out unconsciously and entered an eating frenzy, taking chip after chip with no remorse. "Why is this so good?!" I questioned with my mouth full.

Kozue chuckled and I came back to reason. I looked down at the bag and asked myself, What am I doing?

"I would pay to see that expression on your face!" Kozue laughed. "Wait, I'm in your body, I can do it whenever I want!"

"Don't," I said with a poker face.

I looked inside the bag. "I almost finished them."

"Give me one!" Kozue said and grabbed a chip out of the bag. She crunched it for a second before gulping it.

"It's pretty good!" she said. "But I remember it being even tastier. Same with the bread."

"That's weird."

We finished our snacks after a couple of minutes when clouds began hiding the sunlight and fewer kids played in the park.

An awkward silence halted our chat.

"S-So, how's your family, Araki-kun?"

"Well, my father is traveling somewhere, probably outside Japan."

"Really? That's amazing!"

Amazing? I wondered. He's only traveling.

"He does it often for business, so I don't get to see him much; even when he's here, to be honest."

"Oh, I-I see," Kozue stuttered. "What about your mom?"

"She's always traveling overseas, even more than my father," I answered. "We video chat when she's not busy, but it's been almost a year already."

Kozue took a pause before asking, "Have they always been away?"

"Since I have memory."

"Who takes care of you, then?"

"Our maids and butlers. They are very nice to me and they have taken care of me since I was a baby. They are like family to me."

"I see! That's nice of them."

"Well, they are paid to do so, anyway."

"I bet they'd do it anyway," she smiled.

I looked at her and thought, I wish I still had that innocence.

"Do you have siblings?" she asked.


A vibration from Kozue's backpack interrupted my answer. "Someone is calling you," I said as I took her phone out.


"Hisa," I read out loud. "Oh, Hashimoto-san?"

"You know her?"

"I do, but only when I was controlling your body."

"I see. Weird, she never calls at this hour," Kozue wondered. "Answer her."

"What? What am I going to say?!"

"Just turn on the speaker and I'll tell you what to say."

I let out a deep breath and slid the green button. The call started and I immediately tapped the speaker icon.

"Su-chan! Are you okay?! Where are you?" Hashimoto-san asked, worried.

Kozue and I looked at each other, confused.

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