Chapter 12:

Love Hunt I

Couple That Can't Touch

All of the third year students gathered in the central garden of the school. Though it was Sunday morning, everyone chatted so joyfully that I couldn't even hear the water running in the canals around the small island.

I stood in the middle, surrounded by people I hadn't seen at all in the first two weeks of classes.

Then a teacher spoke into her megaphone, "All of you, the four classes from the third year of Kasen, will be the first to hunt today."

She stood on a wooden platform in front of everyone, along with a few more teachers. Only then did I notice a red blanket covering a box on a small table next to her.

"The instructions are the same as they are every year, but I'll remind you of them," the teacher said. "They are simple; there are eggs hidden all over the school except bathrooms, laboratories, and staff rooms or buildings, like the warehouse. You'll form teams of three but you'll only get one basket to put the eggs in."

I was surprised. My old school would've never taken an event like this seriously. They never dared to do anything out of the ordinary.

A hand raised among everyone.

"Yes, Takuto-kun?" the teacher smiled.

The name sounded familiar.

"Can we give the basket to another person?" he asked.

The voice sounded even more familiar, so I looked between the crowd. Oh, he's Kawahara-san's friend, Tarō-san, I remembered.

"Yes, you can," the teacher answered. "Just remember that the eggs have to be in the basket to be counted."

"Thank you very much, Shimamura-sensei!" Tarō-san shouted and put his arm down.

Shimamura-sensei sighed and continued, "You can't steal someone else's eggs once they picked them up."

Tarō-san lifted his hand up once again and everyone sighed as if they were used to him always asking questions.

"Y-Yes, Takuto-kun?" Shimamura-sensei smiled again, now with a twitching brow.

"What if someone drops an egg? We still can't take it?"

"You can grab an egg as long as it's not in someone else's hand or basket."

"Thank you very much, Shimamura-sensei!" Tarō-san shouted and put his arm down. I began to understand why people sighed, but it wasn't that bad.

"And, last but not least, you can't push other people, fight, or throw eggs," Shimamura-sensei added.

Tarō-san raised his hand again, but she ignored him and continued speaking, "Please, form your teams and line up to grab a basket, then wait in this garden before starting—"

She hadn't even finished the sentence and everyone ran like a stampede around the garden shouting their friends' names. Meanwhile, I stood still at the back with my mouth open, witnessing my first event at the school and on quite a big scale.

Unorganized, insane, lively…, I thought and a smirk appeared on my face. No matter how chaotic it was, they seemed to have fun and the hunt hadn't even begun.

I realized I should find someone and the first person that appeared in my mind was Kozue. I started looking for her, hoping she wasn't part of a team yet.

I hadn't talked to her or Kawahara-san that much since Kozue spent the night at my house, but I would think of her constantly. It was bothering me that I couldn't find more than one reason as to why it was happening. The only reason I could come up with was one that could be a completely wrong assumption.

The situation calmed down after a minute and I managed to walk around without being pushed. My height played to my advantage to see over everyone else.

I found Kozue no long after and I opened my mouth to shout her name, but stopped when I saw two girls surrounding her; Hashimoto-san and Rem-san. The three of them seemed to be having fun, so I decided not to interrupt them.

It's only logical that she wants to team up with her friends, I thought, but I couldn't ignore the weight that emerged in my chest; it only angered me more.

Someone slapped my back and snapped me out of my thoughts.

"Hi, Koji-kun!" Narumi-san greeted. She stood on tiptoe and whispered in my ear, "You're Koji-kun, right?"

"I am. Hello, Narumi-san," I greeted back.

"I'll believe you!" she chuckled. "Hm? Why the long face? Were you looking for someone?"

She leaned sideways and peeked behind me. "Looks like Suzuka already has a team. No worries, I'll team up with you!" she beamed.

"You don't have a team?"

"I already told you no one talks to me since all of that happened and Mino, Kanna, and Riko already teamed up," she pouted and crossed her arms.

"Right, I'm sorry."

"I'm playing with you!" she smirked.

I stared at her for a couple of seconds. At least she seems happier since last time, I thought and smiled.

"Oh? Did I just make Koji-kun smile?" she asked, surprised.

"Sure, let's team up," I said. "Thanks, Narumi-san."

"What are you thanking me for? And you can call me Sae, my first name."

"Okay, Sae-san."

She giggled. "We still need someone else," she said and looked around.

"Do you know someone that would join us?"

"I know! We could ask the teachers if we can be a team of only two—"

"Good morning, Narumi," a guy greeted Sae-san at my side and I looked at him.

"Hello, Tsuga," she replied, immediately losing the happy mood she had.

Tsuga-san, the one who asked Kozue—while I was in her body—to study with him.

"Why so polite?" he asked Sae-san. "Oh, I see why. Good morning, Araki Koji-san, it's a pleasure to meet you. My name is Tsuga Hisaki, but you probably heard my name already," he smiled.

My brows furrowed; I didn't like his attitude. Only from Kozue, I thought.

"Good morning," I replied. "How do you know my name?"

"Well, it's impossible not to hear it around lately," he responded.

"What do you want?" Sae-san asked him with her arms crossed.

"There's no need to be defensive, Narumi. I wasn't able to find a team, so I was wondering if I could join yours."

"Tsuga-san!" two girls called his name as they approached. "W-We need someone else for our team and we were wondering if you would join us…," one of them stuttered, fidgeting.

"I apologize, I already have a team," he replied with an apologetic tone.

Didn't he just tell us he didn't have one? I asked myself.

"I see… Well, next time!" the girl said, obviously gutted.

Before leaving, they both gazed at Sae-san and walked away muttering.

I knew I shouldn't judge a book by its cover, even Kozue told me that when we talked about Tsuga-san, but I couldn't help but feel that he was just like my old classmates; hiding something under that facade.

"So, do you accept me on your team?" he smiled.

I'll take this opportunity to find out, I thought.

Sae-san opened her mouth to reply, but I interrupted her and responded, "Sure."

"Koji-kun?!" she shouted in shock.

"Thank you very much, Araki-san!" Tsuga-san said and placed his palms together. "I'll give my best for the team."

"Fine," Sae-san sighed. "Let's grab a basket."

"Good idea," Tsuga-san smiled.

I turned around to see Kozue, Hashimoto-san, and Rem-san before leaving; they seemed happy chatting together.

"Koji-kun?" Sae-san called me from ahead, while Tsuga-san didn't stop.

"Sorry," I replied and walked to her.

"Why did you let him join?" she whispered. "He even lied to our faces!"

Should I tell her? I asked myself.

I sighed and answered, "Don't you feel like he's acting all the time? As if he's hiding something."

"That's Tsuga for you. You even realized it after only a minute of meeting him."

"Well, I used to deal with this kind of person. And I already talked to him a little when I swapped bodies with Kozue."


I nodded. "By the way, are you two fighting? You don't seem to like each other."

She looked forward and took a few seconds to reply, "You're right, we don't. Just as you said, he's acting, but everyone likes him, so it looks like it works. He always ends up as the class president and he became even more annoying after finishing in third place last year. He's not in our class, fortunately."

That confirmed it; he was hiding something under his perfect gentleman appearance, but I still needed to confirm it with my own eyes.

"Who was in first and second place?" I asked.

"You don't know?" she replied, surprised. "Kawahara was second and—"

"Hey, where were you?" Tsuga-san interrupted. "I already grabbed the basket. Shall we discuss strategies?"

"Great idea!" Sae-san shouted, faking her joy. "First, give me that basket," she said while reaching for it.

Tsuga-san lifted the basket high up where she couldn't reach it. Only then did I notice he was almost my height.

"We're a team now, Narumi, we shouldn't fight over something like this," he smiled.

"But I don't want you to have the basket!" Sae-san yelled.

"Well, I don't agree with you holding the basket either," he added, never disrupting his fake smile.

"Don't feel superior just because you're one place above me!"

"You and your childish tantrums. I couldn't care less about that."

He was lying, but it was the first time I saw Sae-san acting like that. Well, I had already seen her cry, but this was different; childish indeed.

"Oh, is that so?" Sae-san smiled. "What if I told everyone that I have a recording of you crying and screaming right after you saw the results—"

"I have an idea!" Tsuga-san interrupted her with a high-pitched voice. "If we can't agree, let's let Araki-san hold it!"

"Me?" I asked.

"I agree with that," Sae-san smirked.

Tsuga-san handed me the basket and I stared down at it. Does it mean I'm the leader? I asked myself as my eyes sparkled.

"We shall make a strategy quickly before the hunt begins," he said.

We discussed our plan for the next two minutes, deciding how we should split up in the school and when and where to meet.

A deep, yet feminine, voice shouted without a megaphone and interrupted our tactical discussion, "Good morning, Kasen High School's students!"

"Good morning!" the students greeted back with energy.

It was the principal, who had been standing with the other teachers a few minutes before.

"Now that you've formed your teams, it's time to commence!"

Everyone clapped while I couldn't stop thinking, Her voice is quite powerful.

"But, before that, I'll tell you about this year's prizes," she added and mumbles began to spread across the garden.

"What do you think they will be?" a guy murmured to another guy in front of me.

"I don't know. Remember first place won three restaurant coupons last year," he responded.

"It wasn't bad, but I hope it's something better this time, like no homework for the whole year," a third guy joked and they all chuckled.

"Silence!" the principal shouted and the garden became silent in an instant. "Good. Now, the prize for the team in third place is…," she said as she reached for her suit jacket's pocket. "Three restaurant coupons!"

Everyone clapped slightly as she presented the coupons.

"Again?!" one of the same guys in front of me complained.

"Wait, but that was last year's first-place prize. The other two should be better!"

The claps stopped and the principal continued. "The prize for the team in second place is…" she repeated as she reached for another of her pockets. "Three tickets for the recently opened theme park!"

People clapped more than for the previous prize and uttered in amazement as she displayed the tickets.

"That's actually good!" a guy said in front of me.

"I could take Tadokoro on a date!"

"Are you assuming one of us will give you our ticket?"

The prize announcement resumed. "And the prize for the team that collects the most eggs on the hunt is…"

The garden came to complete silence. Everyone stared at her, expectant of the biggest prize, including me.

The principal extended her arms to her side and shouted, "This!"

Everyone turned to see what her arms presented and the silence remained.

The red blanket? I wondered.

"The prize hides under this blanket," she continued after a few seconds. "It will be revealed when the first-place winners receive it here on the stage."

"Ooh!" the students expressed in surprise.

Everyone started to mumble once again.

"What do you think it is?" the guy in front of me asked.

"I hope something awesome, but we're talking about a high school, so I don't want to get my hopes too high."

I also wondered what it was, though I couldn't think of anything.

"Without further ado, prepare for the hunt!" the principal shouted.

All the teams instantly split and ran to each of the four bridges connecting the garden to the rest of the high school.

"Run!" Sae-san said and pulled me by my hand. I clasped the basket tighter with my other hand so I didn't drop it.

"What is happening?" I asked agitatedly.

"Everyone's already settled in a good position to be the first ones to run out," Tsuga-san replied.

We stopped behind a huge crowd.

"We're all the way back," Sae-san said, worried.

I looked at the other bridges, which were as crowded as ours, and managed to see Kozue in front of everyone else on the bridge that headed to the same side as ours. She looked excited.

"Are you ready?" the principal shouted.

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