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Yoshimura-san and I drove Suzuka back to her house. There was a little awkward silence but nothing too bad. I was still dumbfounded by the fact that I said it out loud and she probably too.
Kawahara-san added Tarō-san to the chat group while we returned home, just as I expected. I told him a few things about me and the rumors were clarified.
The next day went by normally. We experimented in the same way as the previous day and we found out that, once again, we couldn't swap back to our bodies in the same lapse of time as we had been able to at first. While it was good data for Kawahara-san, she still couldn't figure out what had changed to cause that to happen. So we decided to go forward with Kawahara-san's plan the next day—Friday.
Nothing happened during the morning. When the break began, I headed to the laboratory. Suzuka and Tarō-san were waiting on the stairs on the first floor.
"What are you doing here?" I asked.
"Kawahara-senpai told us to go one by one to not look suspicious," Tarō-san answered.
"Yep. Why don't you go now, Koji?" Suzuka said.
I walked down the remaining steps and headed to the laboratory. Kawahara-san was already inside, sitting down at the desk in the same place she used to sit before we got caught.
"Hello, Araki Koji-kun. Did you see Tarō and Kozue Suzuka-san?"
She only calls Tarō-san by his name. Interesting.
"Yes, they are waiting on the stairs."
A couple of seconds later, Tarō-san arrived, followed by Suzuka. We all sat down at the same desk. Tarō sat beside Kawahara-san, and Suzuka and I on the opposite side in front of them.
"We shouldn't waste much time, so I will be brief and concise," Kawahara-san said. "I want to test two things. One, if there's a reaction in high-pressure situations when your heartbeat is very fast. Second, if you subconsciously have learned how to act like each other. Have you practiced that?"
"No. I only try to act like her when I need to."
"Same," Suzuka added. "Though sometimes I act like him without wanting to."
"Yes, I have done that, too."
"Understood. Sounds like this experiment will bring interesting results. As we planned before, I will watch you interact with your friends and Tarō will record everything. I managed to get something else that will give us even more data."
As Kawahara-san reached into her pockets, Suzuka and I glanced at each other, confused and worried about what she was going to take out. Fortunately, it was just a wristband with a light on it.
"You will wear this under your sleeve."
"What is it for?" I asked.
"It will send precise readings of your pulse to my phone."
"Sorry, I can't do it," Suzuka said.
"Why not? I'll just roll your sleeves down. And you will be in my body," I replied.
"True. But I always have my sleeves rolled up, they will be suspicious right away. And my body will start sweating as soon as you do that."
"Now that you mention it, it is possible that I feel a little warmer when I swap into your body. It's weird. You're only wearing a tank top underneath."
"I know, it has always been like that. Wait. How do you know I wear a tank top?"
"I had P.E. class in your body once."
"And you changed clothes? You saw me semi-naked?! You saw all the girls?!"
"N-No, I didn't. I entered the locker room after everyone left, but Hashimoto-san and Rem-san were still there. I closed my eyes and they changed my clothes for me. They didn't tell you?"
"No. So that's why they were joking about… Nevermind. I'm glad they were there."
"I am, too."
"We are wasting too much time," Kawahara-san interrupted. "Araki Koji-san, Kozue Suzuka-san, please swap your bodies at once. Tarō, begin recording."
"Yes, ma'am!" he saluted.
We complied. I let Suzuka touch my hand and we were swapped in five minutes. However, the first challenge came after leaving the laboratory; finding Tsuga-san, the subject for our first test—in Kawahara-san's words. Not knowing him much, we could only guess where he was going to be. We split to find him faster.
After a few minutes, Suzuka sent a message—from my phone—telling us she had found him on the second floor of the cafeteria. I arrived and saw Tsuga-san talking to three girls near the window. Then I saw me—Suzuka—Kawahara-san, and Tarō-san hiding behind a column not far from Tsuga-san. I walked around the entire second floor to avoid him and joined everyone behind the column.
"Splendid. Kozue Suzuka-san, go ahead," Kawahara-san said.
Suzuka took a deep and long breath. "Okay, here I go."
She walked out from behind the column and headed directly towards Tsuga-san.
"Tarō, begin recording as we planned."
"Yes, ma'am," he whispered.
With Kawahara-san's phone already in his hands, he stepped a little to the side to get an acceptable angle. Instead of lifting the phone in front of his face, he acted as if he was seeing something on the screen. It was a bit tilted, making the recording worse, but it helped him look less suspicious.
"Araki Koji-kun, let's try to look as casual as possible," Kawahara-san said.
Strangely, the girls Tsuga-san was talking to were already leaving as Suzuka approached him. He was alone by the time Suzuka arrived. They began talking, but I couldn't hear anything.
"Shouldn't we get closer?"
"No. There's no need to hear what they are saying," Kawahara-san replied.
She was right, there wasn't, but I was curious.
The following minute went by fast. At some points, it seemed that the conversation got a little heated, but nothing happened. We hid behind the column again when Suzuka turned to walk towards us. Tsuga-san didn't care anymore, so he walked away as soon as Suzuka left.
"That went well, Kozue Suzuka-san. We gathered good data," Kawahara-san said.
"Great," Suzuka smiled.
"Do you think he realized that you were someone else?"
"I stuttered a couple of times and he seemed a bit suspicious, but I doubt he thought that I was someone else. He's the only one that doesn't know about the swapping, after all."
"That's correct. That's the reason this is good data. Tarō, open the wristband app."
"Yes," he replied.
He tapped on the screen a few times and we leaned forward to see. The graph showed a spike at the beginning, then it gradually went down as time passed. There were a couple of small spikes in the middle, but nothing outstanding.
"Kozue Suzuka-san, you were nervous when you began talking to him, but you calmed down as you talked more. Is that correct?"
"Well, I didn't calm down. Maybe I just got too invested in the conversation and forgot I was nervous," she giggled.
"Understood. However, these spikes are strange. They might be small, but they shouldn't be there. Did something happen in the middle of the conversation?"
"Yes, it heated up a bit."
"Why?" I asked. "What did you tell him?"
"I apologized for what happened at the theme park. Then I asked him to apologize too."
"Did he do it?"
"It took me a couple of tries, but he did. Then he started to say how easy your life is being rich and having a family that supports you. Maybe that got me a bit angry," she giggled. "Sorry for meddling too much…"
"It's fine. Maybe it's better this way. I doubt I would've apologized on my own."
We smiled at each other.
"There's no time to lose," Kawahara-san interrupted. "Let's find the next subjects; Hashimoto Hisako-san and Masuda Remiko-san."
She still calls them subjects…
"Kozue Suzuka-san, please give the wristband to Araki Koji-kun."
After putting it on and rolling down my sleeves, we began searching for them. As much as Suzuka knew them, we didn't find them at the spots Suzuka thought they would be at. Again, we decided to split to find them faster.
Ten minutes went by with no luck. Then, as I wandered near the natatorium, I saw them walking together. I quickly sent a message to the chat group with Suzuka's phone to tell them I found them.
Carefully, I followed them as casually as possible. Fortunately, there weren't many people around. However, instead of turning to follow the path, they walked in the opposite direction, behind the natatorium.
Where are they going? Did they notice me?
Thinking they had found me out, I slowly approached the corner and peeked out from behind the wall. They were close to each other. Too close. Practically hugging.
"Su-chan!" Rem-san screamed.
I quickly hid behind the wall, still baffled by what I saw.
Were they kissing?
Suddenly, I was pulled from behind the wall. Hashimoto-san and Rem-san stood still in front of me, speechless and as white as a ghost. I probably was too.
"Su-chan, we are very sorry for not telling you before…," Hashimoto-san apologized.
I hadn't seen someone that mortified in years. And I hadn't felt that nervous in a long while. But there was another problem.
What the hell do I say now?!
After gulping, I replied, "I-It's fine. But why did you—"
"Araki-kun?" Rem-san asked.
My mouth remained open. With nothing left to do and no reason to keep acting, I gave up.
"How did you know?"
"Su-chan's reaction would've been stronger," Hashimoto-san answered.
"What are you doing? Why are you in her body?" Rem-san asked.
"I should be the one asking you that."
Hashimoto-san replied, "None of your business—"
"The hell it isn't," I interrupted. They seemed shocked, but I didn't care. "Judging by your reaction, Suzuka doesn't know about this. Does she?"
"Why not?! Isn't she your best friend?"
"Yes…," Rem-san answered, looking down at the ground.
"Then why haven't you told her?"
"It isn't that easy," Hashimoto-san replied.
"Yes, it is."
"No, it isn't!" she yelled. She walked towards me. "What we did was wrong, but you aren't any better. Stop meddling in things you think you have the reason for when you know nothing. Stop thinking that because you had a rough past everyone will pity you. I. Don't. Care."
We stood in silence. My blood was boiling at that point. But the last thing I wanted was to pick up a fight where it wasn't needed.
"You're right, I've meddled too much. But you also don't know me. We don't know each other. So why don't we both stop meddling in each other's life."
Hashimoto-san crossed her arms. "Fair enough."
I took a moment to breathe and calm down.
"Just tell Suzuka as soon as possible."
She stared at me, frowning. "Or?"
"Or I'll tell her myself."
"Stop arguing. We promise we'll tell her," Rem-san replied.
"Thank you," I said. "I'll leave you alone."
"Wait. Why are you in Su-chan's body?" Hashimoto-san asked.
"We are doing some experiments with Kawahara-san. She wanted to see if there was a reaction in a high-pressure situation and if we subconsciously acted like each other."
"Experiments, huh? Well, leave it to Kawahara to find out everything about your magic. But be careful. If something bad happens, you'll have to look for real help. And that won't be pretty."
"I know. We will."
I walked back to where I had been hiding to see me, Kawahara-san, and Tarō-san already hiding.
"Did you just arrive?" I asked.
"Yes. We couldn't find you until we heard someone yelling. Kozue Suzuka-san immediately knew it was Hashimoto Hisako-san."
"Did you hear something else?"
Suzuka shook her head. "No, we are too far away. What happened? Why did Hisa yell?"
I didn't want to lie to her, but I didn't want her to find out about her friends from me. Also, they had promised they would tell her as soon as possible.
"She was upset because I was following them in your body. She thought I was spying on them."
"That makes sense."
"Araki Koji-kun, your pulse was extremely high at some point," Kawahara-san said, looking at the graph. "Were you nervous when they found you out?"
"Yes. And I followed them for a while. Maybe my pulse kept increasing because of that."
Suzuka stared at me. She was obviously suspicious. It was the first time I had felt that bad when lying. However, knowing that I would tell her the truth soon calmed me down.
"Understood. How long did it take them to realize it was you and not Kozue Suzuka-san?"
"Instantly. A couple of seconds."
"Impressive. Unfortunately, we couldn't record much."
"It's not your fault. They have known Kozue Suzuka-san for too long. You were trying to play a stealth game for the first time, but starting in the Expert Plus mode."
"Yes, it was like that," I smirked.
"We shall not lose any more time. Araki Koji-kun, please give the wristband to Kozue Suzuka-san. Let's search for the next and last subject; Narumi Sae-san."
After splitting and looking for her for another five minutes, Kawahara-san finally found her at the awards display on the third floor. With only ten minutes of the break remaining, I walked as fast as possible from the other side of the school, while still being careful of Suzuka's ankle.
I arrived dampened in sweat. I hadn't rolled up my sleeves. How is it possible to sweat this much? It isn't even hot.
Suzuka, Kawahara-san, and Tarō-san were waiting near the window of the hallway.
"Kozue Suzuka-san, go ahead."
"Fine… Here I go," she sighed.
She approached Sae-san, who was sitting by herself on a bench, looking down at her phone. As soon as Suzuka began talking to her, her face lit up. She moved aside to let Suzuka sit beside her. However, we didn't expect someone else to arrive; Sae-san's friends.
What do they want?ns 18.104.22.168da2