Chapter 55:

Professional Laboratory

Couple That Can't Touch

"Suzuka, your boyfriend's here!" Mom shouted outside my room.

"I'm coming!"

It was still a bit embarrassing for people to refer to Koji as my boyfriend, yet I felt proud as well.

Only a few days after Koji and I officially became a couple, I told my family about it. Everyone was surprised. Of course, my parents were cheerful about me having a rich boyfriend, but they were happier about me having a partner. They also wanted to meet him properly, so they made me invite him to eat with us. Dad acted cold and tough, but I knew he was happy.

I took a minute to finish getting ready then walked out of my room towards the front door, where Mom chatted with Koji.

"Are you sure?" Mom asked. "We have a lot of stuff to cook."

"Thank you, but we need to arrive punctually."

"That's sad, but don't worry. Where are you going, again?"

"Mom! I don't need to tell you everywhere I go," I yelled as I approached.

"You're my daughter and you live in my house; I make the rules. But I know you need your space, so I won't meddle that much."


"You're welcome."

The three of us stayed silent for a moment.

"Will you not greet each other with a kiss?" Mom asked.

"Mom! Let's just go, Koji," I sighed and pushed him.

"Sure," Koji replied. "Have a great evening, Mrs. Kozue."

"Have a fun time, you two," Mom smiled as she waved.

I closed the door and let out a long breath.

"Your mother is always… interesting," Koji said.

"You don't have to tell me. Did you request a taxi?"

He nodded. "It'll arrive in two minutes."

It arrived exactly two minutes later and we hopped in.

Since my house was closer to Hosei University than Koji's and Hisaki's apartment, Koji took a train to my house so we could take a taxi to the university together. We chatted about many things, like the weather getting colder and being able to wear long sleeves so that we touched less often. Still, it was frustrating not to be able to hold hands without having to worry.

We arrived at the campus twenty minutes later and got out at the entrance. There was a fence and a reception booth. The building had a lot of windows and a tunnel in the middle—which was in front of us.

Koji and I had no idea where to go. Luckily, Kawahara and Tarō were waiting for us on the sidewalk.

"Hello," I greeted them as Koji and I approached.

"Suzuka-san, Koji-kun, good evening," Kawahara replied. It had been a few weeks since she had finally given up on calling everyone by their complete names; after years of experimenting, she concluded it wasn't worth it.

"Hi!" Tarō added. "Are you ready for the heavy machinery? There are a lot of scary-looking devices here."

"To be honest, we are a little nervous," Koji responded. "But we want to fix the swapping as soon as possible."

I nodded.

"And that's what I'm going to do," Kawahara replied. "Unfortunately, we need professional tools I can't get access to without the proper permissions, so we are going to use my mother for that. Follow me."

That didn't sound very nice.

Kawahara walked past the fence and the guards welcomed her with a friendly greeting. We merely followed her through the tunnel and through the gardens of the campus. We stepped into a building and entered a room. A dozen futuristic-looking machines stood on the floor or on desks. Some were small and others were huge. Still, there was a lot of space in the room between the desks.

"You arrived," a deep feminine voice said.

I looked to my left and saw a middle-aged woman wearing glasses and a lab coat. It didn't even take me a second to realize she was Kawahara's mom.

"Good evening, Mrs. Kawahara," Koji greeted her.

"Hello, Koji-san. Have you been doing well?"

He nodded. Mrs. Kawahara then looked at me.

"Nice to meet you, Mrs. Kawahara," I bowed. "I'm Kozue Suzuka, Kawahara's classmate."

"The pleasure is mine," she smiled. "So, you two are the couple that can't touch, huh? Enko showed me the reports she and Tarō-kun have been making. I'd be lying if I said the data wasn't interesting, to say the least."

"Yeah, it's hard to believe," I giggled.

"Well, stranger things that have happened in the past are now seen as normal. We just need to understand them."

"We'll help with anything we can."

"Just tell us what to do," Koji added.

"I like the spirit," Mrs. Kawahara smiled. "Before beginning, you need to sign this contract," she continued as she reached for two sheets of paper underneath her coat. She handed them to Koji and me. "Basically, this contract stipulates that you are not allowed to share any information regarding the experiments unless otherwise indicated. It, also, specifies your roles as test subjects as well as your rights."

So this is where Kawahara gets her ideas from.

Both Koji and I skimmed through the text to get a general idea as fast as possible. Mrs. Kawahara let us use a desk and a pen to sign them.

"Perfect," Mrs. Kawahara said. "We shall begin shortly. I hope you're okay with needles. Because Enko isn't. She wants to be a scientist but she's scared of many ordinary things—"

"That is useless information, Mother," Kawahara said.

"Not for Tarō-kun."

"Eh?" Tarō uttered in surprise.

Kawahara sighed. She took her phone out and handed it to Tarō. "Tarō-kun, record the procedures."


Mrs. Kawahara approached a desk and crouched down to open a container. She took two syringes out and attached needles to them.

"Who wants to go first?" she asked.

"Ladies first," Koji answered.

I looked at him, puzzled. "Eh?"

"I'm kidding. I'll go first."

It's rare for him to make jokes. But I like it when he does.

Koji sat down on a chair and Mrs. Kawahara asked him to pull his sleeve up. The toned muscles of his arm became visible and I couldn't help but stare at them. Luckily, Kawahara and Tarō were staring at them as well—for a different reason, obviously.

Mrs. Kawahara tied something around Koji's arm. She gently inserted the needle into his arm and Koji flinched slightly. Mrs. Kawahara slowly pulled the plunger and the syringe started filling with Koji's blood. Once it was half full, Mrs. Kawahara took the needle out of Koji's arm.

"Done," she said. "Since I'll run very specific tests with it, I don't need that much. Also, I don't want to take that much because I'll take more after you swap your bodies."

"Take our blood two times?" I asked.

She nodded. "Since you, supposedly, swap bodies after you touch, I want to run tests on both states to see if anything changes in that aspect."

"Makes sense."

Koji stood up and I sat down. I pulled my sleeve up, Mrs. Kawahara tied something around my arm extremely tightly, and she prepared to insert the needle. I wasn't scared of them, but I preferred not to look at it while it was being inserted into my arm.

I flinched when I felt the pinch, but it wasn't too painful. Again, the syringe was filled up to half of its capacity before Mrs. Kawahara took it out.

"Done," she said. "Now please take a seat next to the computer over there."

She pointed at two chairs next to a desk with two monitors on top. So many wires came out of the computer and hung off the desk. Nervous, Koji and I complied.

Once we sat down, Mrs. Kawahara asked Kawahara to help her. They wrapped stuff around our heads and arms. Mrs. Kawahara then did something on the computer and a graph started moving.

"Suzuka-san, Koji-san, it's time you touch yourselves."

Kawahara said the same thing.

Koji and I glanced at each other. As usual in Kawahara's experiments, he placed his hand next to me so I could touch it. However, as soon as I touched, he clasped my hand. We didn't have many opportunities to do it, so I instantly knew why he did it. I grabbed it back.

The five of us chatted normally while waiting for Koji and me to swap bodies. Suddenly, Koji received a message.

"Suzuka, it's my father."

"Did something happen?"

"It's about the partnership. He's agreed to come to see your parents' bakery."

"Really? I didn't expect him to accept."

"Me neither."

"When is he coming?"

"Tomorrow evening."


Koji and I talked about it for a few more minutes until the sleepiness hit us. We fell asleep and woke up in each other's bodies. And so the experiments began. Questions, maths, puzzles, exercises, a couple of machines that scanned us, and many other things. As I had expected, it was going to be a long evening. We even swapped again after having swapped back to our own bodies.

It was almost ten when we finished. Mrs. Kawahara told us the results weren't going to be ready for at least two more weeks.

Since Tarō lived near Kawahara's house, it was expected they were going to return together. However, Mrs. Kawahara offered to give us a ride. She dropped me off at my house and dropped Koji off at a train station.

I ate dinner right after arriving then I lay on my bed and instantly died. I didn't even change clothes.

I woke up early in the morning. I didn't know if I should tell my parents about Koji's dad coming to the bakery but, since they both were going, I decided not to tell them. Telling them was only going to make them nervous.

We arrived at the bakery—including Yu-tan—and prepared everything to start the day. As always, Sora-chan arrived on time.

The day progressed normally. Only the regular customers came in, so sales kept going down. My parents were clearly stressed but, as soon as they talked to Yu-tan, they had to hide their worry. It made me realize how tough they had to act when I was little.

Only one hour remained before we would close the bakery and Koji's dad was nowhere to be seen. When finally, he arrived. A black SUV parked in front of the bakery and I instantly recognized it. My heart started pounding.

Yoshimura-san got out of the car and, as he walked to the other side of the car, he saw me through the window. He nodded at me with a smile before opening the door of the car. Koji's dad got out. He hadn't even entered the bakery and I could already feel his imposing aura.

"That's Mr. Araki," Sora-chan said, standing in front of me on the other side of the counter.

"You know him? Of course you do; you were in the same class as Koji for years."

"Yes, but I don't know him personally."

Now that I think about it, I've only met him when I was in Koji's body.

"Should we do something?" Sora-chan asked.

"No. Let's treat him as a normal customer."

"Got it."

As soon as he stepped into the bakery, Sora-chan approached him.

"Welcome to Kakes, please take your time to pick what you need. If you have a question, don't hesitate to ask us."

She doesn't seem nervous at all, while my hands are shaking a bit.

"Thanks," Koji's dad replied. "Um, can I talk to the manager?"

Did he just 'um'? Is he the one that is nervous?

Sora-chan stayed silent. "Give a moment," she said and approached me.

"What are you doing?!" I whispered. "You just left him hanging!"

"I don't know what to answer."

"Just tell him to come to the counter."


She walked back and told him exactly that. He approached me.

"Good evening," I smiled. "Do you need help?"

"I want to speak to the manager. It's a business inquiry."

"Sure. I'll call her right away."

As soon as I started walking towards the kitchen, he stopped me.

"Wait. Before you do that, can you tell me what your most popular product is?"

"S-Sure. Follow me."

My heart kept beating hard as we walked throughout the bakery. It was small, but I felt it was endless.

"Here," I said when we arrived at the shelf. "Do you want to try it?"

"Yes," he answered. He frantically started searching for something in his suit jacket.

"You don't need to pay anything. The first slice is in the house."

"Oh, okay."

Why do I think he's acting like Koji?

I took out a glove from my apron's pocket and put it on. I slid open the cover of the shelf and grabbed a slice of bread.

"Enjoy," I smiled and handed him the slice.

He inspected it for a while before taking the first bite. He didn't react at all for a few seconds as he chewed. Then, the well-known flavor explosion of the bakery's bread hit him. His expression instantly switched into shock.

"What is this flavor?" he asked as he ate more.

"It's the blending of the icing and the stuffing."

"Yes but, what is it?"

"You'll need to ask the bakers about that, who turn out to be the managers as well."

"Please call them."

"Gladly," I smiled. "By the way, I know this isn't very professional, but I'll feel weird if I don't do it now. My name is Kozue Suzuka. I'm Koji's girlfriend," I bowed.

He stopped chewing. "Nice to meet you. Koji hasn't told me much about you. I don't blame him. I'm glad he found someone as hard-working as you. I hope you support him and give him a good example."

"Don't worry, I will," I smiled. "Sorry for interrupting, please continue eating. I'll call the managers right away."

Happy with the result, I headed to the kitchen and told my parents that Koji's dad was in the bakery. They didn't believe me until they peeked out of the door and saw him. They almost panicked, but they calmed themselves down and walked out. I stayed behind the counter with Yu-tan and Sora-chan.

My parents talked with Koji's dad for a bit before the three of them headed into the kitchen. Since Yu-tan was with me, I decided not to spy on them.

Their chat lasted almost an hour. Then, Koji's dad walked out of the kitchen and stepped out of the bakery. Yoshimura-san opened the door of the car for him and they drove away. By his expression, I thought it had gone wrong.

My parents walked out of the kitchen.

"How did it go?!" I shouted.

Dad stuttered, "I… We…"

"We couldn't reach an agreement," Mom answered.

My heart sunk. "What? Why?"

"Today," she added.


"It's not certain yet, but it seems that we'll be partnering with the Araki restaurant chain soon. Very soon."

I was able to breathe again. I ran towards them and hugged them. Yu-tan joined the hug as well.

"I'm so happy!" I said.

Mom hugged us back, but Dad didn't.


That was when we realized he had passed out with a smile.

"Dad! Not time to sleep yet!" Yu-tan yelled and punched him in the stomach.

"Ah! Did I just pass out?"

"You did," Mom replied.

"I think all that was too much emotion for me," he giggled.

We all laughed.

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