Chapter 21:

Silk Courage

Couple That Can't Touch

An entire week passed after Kozue asked me out on a date. Not much more than club activities happened in preparation for the Club Fair. I was a little surprised that people actually bothered to try and teach me how to cook since I knew hardly anything about it. Kawahara-san taught me a little too, but she was more focused on her research.

The weekend arrived. I closed the curtains and laid down on my bed to study music on my phone to keep what had happened on the first day of club meetings from happening again.

I should buy some instruments and ask Kozue to teach me, I thought.

However, it was the first time I struggled to keep focus while studying. Kozue constantly appeared in my mind and deviated my focus to think about her and our date—which I hadn't planned anything for.

I rolled around on my bed, unable to get those out of my thoughts.

It's still one week away. Should I read stuff about dating? I wonder how much romance manga and anime would help in real life. Maybe they'll help me find out why I like her.

There was no point in thinking about it aimlessly; I needed to study, so I shook my head and slapped myself mildly with both hands.

My phone started vibrating as soon as I began reading and the video chat app showed up on the screen; Mom?

I sat up and tapped the green button to accept the call. The video loaded in no time.

"Morning, sweetheart!" she greeted with her usual energy and waved.

Her black hair had more white strands in it compared to the last time we chatted, the eyebags were dark enough to be seen, and her face had wrinkles where there hadn't been any before, but she still had the enthusiasm to smile like that.

"Good… What time is it there?" I asked.

"It's the evening of the day that would have been your yesterday there in Japan. You live in the future! Isn't that amazing?" she grinned.

She had told that joke dozens of times already, but I still smirked and nodded. "Good evening, Mom. Why are you calling?"

"Hm? I can't call you just because I feel like it?" she responded. "And why is your hair so messy? Did I disturb you? Oh, maybe you were busy with boy things," she snickered, hiding her mouth under her hand.

As I was used to those jokes, I ignored her and replied, "I was studying music."

Her laugh stopped and her eyes widened up. "Music? You're interested in it now? Didn't you tell me and your father that you didn't like it?"

"I didn't like it at Zie."

"And it caught your attention after transferring schools?" she questioned, doubtful.

I opened my mouth to answer but stopped before saying any word. I couldn't tell her about the body-swapping in a video call. It was already risky enough to tell anyone in real life, telling her through a call would make it harder for her to believe me; she would think I was crazy.

What should I tell her?

"Don't tell me…," she gasped.


"I-Is it because of a girl?"

My breathing stopped for a moment as I hesitated to answer. It was because of a girl, but not in the way she was probably thinking.

"It is!" she squealed and clapped. "I didn't know I had the deduction power of a mother!"

Why does she sound so proud now? She has been doing it for years…

"I guess it was about time at your age, but I didn't expect it at all! It's a great surprise. What are you waiting for? Tell me about her!"

"Tell you about her?" I asked, unsure of what I could tell her about Kozue. Also, I was a little embarrassed to bring up our date.

Mom put her hand on her chin, thoughtful. "Tell me about her appearance."

The image of Kozue suddenly appeared in my mind and so I began to describe her after sighing. "Her hair is red, her eyes are green, she's very short, and she's in shape."

"What about her butt and boobs?" Mom innocently asked.

My brain took a few seconds to process what she said. My face flushed and I stuttered, "W-What are you asking, Mom?!"

"Fine, fine, don't answer if you don't want to, but I know you think about those things," she giggled. "Tell me about her personality, then."

Distinct memories of Kozue appeared in my mind as soon as she asked. "Her personality… She can be easily influenced, but she's cheerful practically all the time. She's emotional, expressive, bad at lying, smart, funny… Even though she's always smiling and playing around, I know she takes things seriously."

Mom stared at me through the screen in silence and with her mouth open. Did I say something bad?


"Sorry, I just didn't expect to hear that you like so many things about her!"


After a thoughtful second, she smiled. "I see what's happening now."

"What do you mean?"

"You like her but you don't know why, so you were rolling around on your bed, unable to realize the reasons, and that's why your hair is messy."

What the hell?! I truly think she can read my mind and that there are cameras in my room…

She sighed. "Look, sweetheart. For me, one of the best ways to fall in love is when you don't even know why you're in love. I had many boyfriends and only once did I not know why I liked a guy; it was your father."

"Really? I didn't know that."

She nodded. "Then I began to find the reasons. He acted tough and rude on the outside, but he was actually fragile and very sensitive on the inside. He would blush every time I teased him."

"I would've never guessed he was like that…"

"You may have got my face and hair, but you resemble his personality more than you think."

Her words struck my mind. I had never thought about it; I resemble… him?

"Oh, I also like him because his butt is nice," she smirked, snapping me out of my thoughts.


"Sorry, sorry," she giggled. "What is her name, by the way?"

"Kozue Suzuka."

"That's a pretty name," she said. Then she let out a deep breath. "Have you told your father? I know you don't like talking about it, but we both know he cares a lot more than I do."

Unlike Father who would try to disguise the question under another one, she went straight to the point.

"All I know is that her family is struggling with money right now."

"I see… I don't mind too much, but please be careful, you know that people can do anything to get money—"

"She's not like that," I interrupted her.

Mom stared at me for a second before smiling. "Good, as long as you're certain. I guess you haven't told your father."

"I haven't."

"Please tell him as soon as you can."

"Do I need to?"

She put her hands under her chin and her expression changed to that of a cute puppy; wide and teary eyes. "Do it for me!"

I sighed. "Fine, I will."

"Yay!" she squealed and clapped.

The conversation came to a halt. We stared at each other for a little while in peaceful silence. It had been months since we last talked and we knew we weren't going to chat again for another long while.

"You know, I think I finally made my decision," she said.

"What decision?" I asked, puzzled.

"I'll return home and never leave you again!"

My chest tightened. "What?"

"Yes! I'm bored of all this business crap! Oops, sorry for the bad language," she nervously giggled. "I'm getting older and I get tired faster, but, more importantly, I don't want to miss any more of your life."

A lump formed in my throat, making me gulp.

"What if you suddenly had a girl and I couldn't be there when she's born!"

"T-That won't happen!" I yelled.

She even already gave it a gender…

She giggled. "But I'm serious, I won't tolerate missing important events anymore! I bet your father feels like this as well, but he's too proud—ahem, scared—to admit it. So, I'll return as soon as I can wrap everything up here and I'll make him confess! It'll take a few months, but I promise I'll be back in less than a year. Sweetheart, I promise you that."

Unable to find any words, I closed my eyes and nodded with a smile; anyone knew that she would keep her promises.

"Good! Now—" Someone out of frame interrupted her. "What? Really? Now? Fine…" she sighed. "I'm sorry, sweetheart, but I need to go. It's always nice talking to you, but this time was even more fun."

"Yes, it was very fun talking to you today," I smiled.

"I'm glad to hear that. We'll talk again soon! Take care and greet Kozue Suzuka for me! Oh, and don't let your guard down, make her yours!" she giggled. "Bye-bye!"

"Bye," I said as she waved with her hand. "Oh, Mom—"

The call ended before I could finish my sentence.

Dammit, I should've asked her about dating after she found out, I told myself. I wonder if Kozue is also struggling. I guess she can just ask her friends.

At last, I had begun to find the answers to at least one of the many questions I had about Kozue and me, so it was easier to focus on the short study session after chatting with Mom.

An hour later, I decided to take a break. The weather was perfect for being outside, so I walked out into the garden at the back of the mansion while lunch was being prepared.

I always thought the garden was unnecessarily big, but I still liked to wander around beneath its many trees instead of the coverless paths in the center.

Sakakibara-san was sitting under the shadows of one of the trees, looking at the central fountain. I approached him.

"Hello, Sakakibara-san. Mind if I sit with you?" I asked.

"Please go ahead, Araki-sama," he responded with his raspy, trembling, voice.

I sat next to him on the bench. "Is it your break?"


"I still can't understand how you manage to endure Father's absurd demands."

"You wonder that because of my age?"

"Well, yes…"

He laughed and coughed. "You don't have to worry about me, young Araki. I have been doing this for more than five decades, I'm prepared for it."

"But still…"

"I told you not to worry. It's true that your father's demands have gotten pickier, but you can't blame him."

"What do you mean?"

"Although not impossible, it isn't easy to maintain a successful business like an international restaurant chain and have a united family. Not only that, but many experiences throughout his life have shaped him into who he is now."

"Experiences?" I wondered.

Sakakibara-san simply smiled. "You should ask him yourself one day."

"He'll just change the topic."

"A person can change, Araki-sama. More than you can imagine."

As much as my mind wanted to reject the idea of Father changing, it couldn't ignore Sakakibara-san's words; they both clashed.

"Talking about change, did you want to tell me something?"

"Not exactly, but… I'm going on a date with a girl next week."

"And you wanted tips from me? Let me let you know that my last partner was many decades ago, so I won't be able to help you," he laughed.

"I just wanted to tell you."

He smiled. "I know you aren't a man of many words, so I'm glad you are willing to tell me."

I stared at him, speechless.

"What is it, Araki-sama?"

"You always call me young. This is the first time you've called me a man…"

"Did that surprise you?" he laughed. "You're growing, young Araki, it's time you understand that. Just like young Otsune did."

Is it that important? I wondered.

"Talking about Otsune, you still can't tell me about her, can you?" I asked.

He looked at me. "I can't, but your father can."

"He'll never—"

"Just ask him when he returns. I'm sure there will be many more answers than you realize when you dare to ask the questions."

"…I will."

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