Kokoro Connect:Volume 1 Chapter 4
 Chapter 4 - The Week of Fostering Relationships and Detonating Bombs
In Yamaboshi High School, participating in club activities is mandatory—this is the only thing reckoned to be troublesome in the school. Otherwise, other school rules are very loose.
From the perspective of the school, putting more effort into their clubs means that students have less time for delinquency and malicious activities. Loose rules lets the students become more independent.
Still, this disgusted some students. They thought that having mandatory club activities for high schoolers was just unreasonable. Though, on the positive side, club budgets and facilities in the school transcended those of other schools.
The most attractive thing in this school was the large number of clubs.
When there were enough club members, the club could do whatever it wanted. Thanks to the loose admission procedures, clubs were made one by one and quickly became large in number. The total number of clubs established was even over a hundred. Despite this, most clubs were abandoned after a few years. The number of clubs rose and fell as new clubs were created and old, inactive clubs were slowly erased from the listing.
However, even if the club was not currently active, the club still existed in name. Or atleast, until the administration got around to removing it. Therefore, the first years would still have to make a choice from the hundred clubs on the list.
One thing of note is that there is a rule that states 'if there are no more than five members, the club cannot have activities with the name of the club'.
In Yamaboshi High, because of the mandatory club participation, newcomers must hand in their club application before an appointed date. If they chose an active club, they would directly enter the club. However, if they chose a club that existed only in name, they would then have to find other newcomers or club transfers from students in year 2 or 3 in order to meet the five member threshold.
Despite this, most students want to enter clubs that are still running. After all, most of the choices were quite normal and had enough members. More importantly, not many want to put in the effort to revitalise clubs that were inactive.
Though there were students who wanted to join an inactive club, those students usually found others to join with them first. Therefore there hasn't been a time when someone wanted to join a club but there weren't enough people.
However, there are exceptions.
After all, no matter what place or time, where there is society, there are outlaws.
For example, there was a boy who had an extreme enthusiasm about professional wrestling, knew nothing about the five-person rule, and handed his application for 'professional wrestling study club' immediately after seeing the club name in the list. His name was Taichi.
There was also a girl who invested a lot in karate up until middle school, but whether or not this was the reason why she became particularily interested in cute things is unknown. And so, she found the 'Fancy club' on the list, but had no idea that the club was only active for two years (six years ago) and knew nothing about its current condition. She believed that its existance was some kind of revelation from above, and even when others told her that there wouldn't be enough people, she still advocated (sillily) that it would be fine because there were a lot of cute girls that year and wrote 'Fancy club' on her application letter. The one who did all of this was a girl named Kiriyama Yui.
Another example was someone who described her hobby as 'collecting and analysing data'. She originally planned to join the computer club, but because of an acute argument with the club president during the last day of club activities (which was ascribed to her arrogance and the club president's low tolerance of it), she hurrily got her application back from the teacher. Instead, she planned to revitalise a branch of the computer club which had detached due to prior arguments—the data processing club. The one who did all of this was a girl named Inaba Himeko.
Yet another example was a boy who believed in an urban legend. According to this legend, in Yamaboshi High there was a club called the 'Play Club'. It was fine for universities to have such clubs, but they don't exist in high schools. He thought that he could join a club by writing the name of the club in the application, even when there wasn't such a club in the list. He felt that the club was super interesting because it was not on the list (and of course, since it did not exist). However, instead of being admitted to this illusory club, his application was treated as if he were applying to form a new club. The name of this boy was Aoki Yoshifumi.
A final example was a girl who thought that choosing from a list of clubs was hard and annoying. Thinking that leaving the choice to fate would be exciting and moving, and also thinking that it would make for brilliant and fantastic memories (or maybe it was just her own perception), the one who wrote 'for teacher to choose♥' for her chosen club was a girl named Nagase Iori.
The laws of this society called 'school' will bind such outlaws, especially those who are just high schoolers, forcing them to cooperate with the rest of society.
But this point had to be marked with an addendum of 'usually.'
Indeed, in most cases, outlaws might as well succumb to those who have might and power.
But sometimes outlaws will rebel.
For example, Yaegashi Taichi, Nagase Iori, and Inaba Himeko from class 1C in Yamaboshi High replied with, respectively, "Teacher, I haven't heard that it wouldn't work if there aren't five people", "Nyaa, so I said I let 'Go' decide... I am looking forward to hearing your choice!" and "So can you please postpone the deadline slightly? I will find another four."
Or for example, Kiriyama Yui and Aoki Yoshifumi from class 1A in Yamaboshi High who said, "Teacher! There must be something wrong here! Please can you try soliciting people again? All high school girls like cute stuff, so there shouldn't be any problem there!" and "Eh? That club doesn't exist? Then can I try to establish one? It needs five people? I can gather them real quick..." respectively.
In spite of their efforts, in the end none of them would achieve what they wanted because the world was not simple or feeble enough that a rebellion started by just anyone could change it so easily. In most cases, those advocacies are directly abolished or pulverized by the rule.
But there surely are exceptions.
Rebels will sometimes cause unexpected changes.
For example, one who was basically thoughtless, sluggish and perfunctory — on one hand, unbound by the rules, and on the other, absent-minded — thought that persuading Taichi, Nagase and Inaba to join an existing club would be problematic. Then, he thought, "Let me just put these three together and create a club that will let them freely enjoy themselves!" This person was on the side of the law, but listened to the rebels. The one who proposed this new and unusual idea was the teacher named Gotou Ryuzen.
Another example was a beautiful, naïve woman who was quite thoughtless, liked to join the fun, and was alleged to be popular in her school days. The boys reckon her as "good, very moe" and valued her prestigiously, although others thought that her competency on the educational side of things was still unconfirmed. When she heard that Gotou said "Because of this, I'm planning to establish a new club", she proposed, "Well, there are two suitable students in my class". Thus, she decided to let Kiriyama and Aoki join the club through this concise conversation. Also on the side of the law was the teacher of class 1A, Hirata Ryouku.
Through these multiple coincidences, the Cultural Research Club was established.
In other words, the CRC is a signature of victory of the outlaws. It is the chemical product produced from aberrant students and teachers.
The latter seems more meaningful right now... or not... whatever, it is just a trivial problem after all.
The aim of the newly-established Cultural Research Club was 'to break all constraints and laws, so as to investigate everything in a different light'. Or in short, 'do whatever we want'.
Therefore, Taichi and the other four utilised the club budget in accord with the aim of the club—basically, to do anything they wanted.
Nevertheless, a high school club could not be left alone so easily, so the school called for every club to hand in a monthly report on their activities and make a record in order to keep the right for the club to stay. The Cultural Research Club reorganizes the activity record into the «Bunken News» and posts and distributes it in the school (unfamiliar and crazy content seemed to be very popular among a handful of students).
But, one day in September—
The Cultural Research Club faced a life-and-death situation... No, the existence of the club did not really matter; the important thing was the impact that this may have on each of their lives.
'This', of course, is the 'personality exchange phenomenon that occurred between the five' and their encounter with «Fuusenkazura».
"I think all of you should understand that our meeting is to evaluate our behaviour for the week!"
Taichi, Nagase, Kiriyama and Aoki responded differently to Inaba's passionate and somewhat angry words.
The encounter with «Fuusenkazura» was last Friday, a week before. Today is Saturday and the five members of the Cultural Research Club gathered in Inaba's house.
"So, let's start... Hmm?"
A telephone rang in one of the rooms.
"Sorry, let me first catch the phone. Please wait here until I come back."
Inaba spoke cheerfully and playfully to them as if they were children. After that, she left the room.
"Hmm... Inaba's room is really similar to her! The last time we came was when we had to decide the itinerary for 'the play camp', right?"
Aoki looked around the room as he spoke. Indeed, the whole room was monochromatic and looked tranquil and mature. Necessities like a bed, a table, a bookshelf, a TV and a computer were there but there was nothing more than that. The room was streamlined for productivity and efficiency—it was surely coherent with Inaba's mood.
"Nyaaa～Inaba is so lucky to have such a wide room that can fit the five of us. I do have a room of my own, but because of its small size and some of my necessities, there isn't any space left. And because my sister doesn't have a TV in her room, she always comes to my room and stays there... Or I should say, how did she grow so big and tall! She is even taller than me... though I think being small makes me cuter."
Kiriyama sat on the floor and mumbled as she ate the snacks on the table.
"Are you talking about your breasts?"
Taichi spoke sincerely, but—
"Yikes! It hurts!"
The biscuits cracked upon reaching Taichi's face, causing an overwhelming pain.
"How did you get that?! I was talking about my height! Oh, I get it. It's because you're always thinking things about breasts, so you came to that conclusion...! I thought Taichi would be different from the others... I can't believe that you would be a pervert like that person sitting over there."
"Nope, this is because you said being small is cuter..."
"Also, are you alluding to me? I have to deny that."
It is pitiful to see Aoki suffering from this unfair treatment.
"Hey! Pick up those biscuits on the floor, or else Inaba will get angry! After all, she is quite orderly."
"Right! I don't want to be shouted at because of those perverts."
Listening to Nagase's reminder, Kiriyama crawled on the floor and started picking up the crumbs. Her chestnut long hair fell towards the floor. Accompanied with her petite body and her hazy lotus-bordered one-piece dress, her shadows evoked a certain allure.
Kiriyama also discovered her own scattered crumbs that had fell on the floor when she ate her snacks, and when she decided to also pick them up—
"Two boys were staring firmly and anticipated seeing an exposed upskirt of Yui, who was busily picking up the crumbs."
Nagase charged in with a novel style dialogue.
"Na, Nagase! What are you talking about? I would never do such—"
"Dammit! It was very close!"
The boy beside Taichi was surely a blunt and stupid guy.
Kiriyama hurriedly pressed down her skirt and sat on the floor with a red face and a quivering body.
Taichi felt a sense of unease but couldn't come up with any methods to defuse the situation.
Kiriyama gradually approached the biscuit plate with her hands.
"Yui, don't do it! If you were to throw them, Inaba will get very angry!"
Nagase had caused the problem, but she still tried to solve the issue in lieu of just laughing.
"So use this 'pillow of oblivion' instead!"
"Nagase, I think using that is much more painful! Also, 'the pillow of oblivion' sounds far too serious!"
But Taichi's complaints went unheard. While cackling loudly, Nagase threw the 'pillow of oblivion' to Kiriyama who turned her body and kicked the pillow right before it was about to touch the floor.
"Oh, I can see her panties now."
......Kiriyama pushed harder after hearing Aoki.
Kiriyama's spinning kick landed right on the 'pillow of oblivion', and it whizzed through the air into Aoki with a frightening 'boom'.
Even with his hands in a defensive posture, Aoki was blown away by the pillow.
The door opened at the same moment—
"Hey, what are you guys shouting ab..."
Though it had decreased in momentum since it bounced off Aoki, the 'pillow of oblivion' still whizzed through the air with overwhelming speed and beautifully knocked into Inaba's face — which it seemed to hit perfectly. Inaba's head fell back due to the surprising impact. While transferring momentum, the 'pillow of oblivion' did not fall, but instead, clung on Inaba's face.
Time stood still —— the next few seconds seemed like an eternity. Inaba finally righted herself and the 'pillow of oblivion' fell down.
Inaba was standing there with a crooked and fierce face.
The other four could do nothing but to quiver repeatedly.
"...Raise your hands and confess your sins if you have made up your mind...!"
Consequently, Nagase and Taichi were flicked on their forehead once while Kiriyama and Aoki had theirs flicked twice. Aoki was also rewarded a slap on his face.
After meeting with «Fuusenkazura» who was in [Gotou's body], Taichi and the other members could do nothing but to accept the challenge of the personality exchange.
First of all, they could not neglect this. The exchange could occur at any time; hence, they could not just stay in their homes.
Secondly, they could not oppose the phenomenon. Even though they really wanted to oppose it, they had no idea of how that could be done. The only thing that they could do was to find «Fuusenkazura», the person who was closely related to the phenomenon, and grab more information. But no matter how much they observed [Gotou], there was not a trace of «Fuusenkazura» left in him.
They could not come up with any plans to counteract this phenomenon.
The only thing they could grasp on to in this metaphorical darkness was the little objective information «Fuusenkazura» had given them.
There was no reason to deny his words. In other words, they had to accept their fate and hope that this would end sooner or later.
Their retrospective meeting finally started after a set of hurdles. Inaba was, certainly, the host and the final decision maker.
"Then, let's first review what we've learned last week. That is, what to do when our personalities have exchanged. The fundamental rule is to contact the person you have exchanged with to confirm your status. Then pretend you're that person and act like him/her and prevent others from finding out. In this regard, we could use some work... Concentrate!!"
Sitting cross-legged, Inaba stared at everyone. Her back was still straight even with this sitting posture. In fact, she looked more like she was meditating than sitting cross-legged.
"First, let's start with the basics. Anyone who has gone into the washroom of the wrong sex while exchanged, raise your hands!"
"Yes." "Yes." "Yes." "Yes."
Everyone had went to the wrong washroom except Inaba,
"Why would you go into the wrong washroom? If it was an exchange between opposite sexes, you should be more careful! This is old school material, guys!"
"It's just hard to change my habits all of a sudden... And in most cases, we are going to the toilet to escape from being found... Yor?"
"Kiriyama, what do you mean by 'yor'? It's because of the exchange that we became more and more embarrassed to go to the washroom!"
High schoolers who would mess up which washroom to go into? More than being chaffed at, these people were more likely to be isolated. Especially when people like Taichi or Inaba went into the wrong washroom, witnesses could not help it. Only a person with an appearance like [Aoki] would make people shout, "Pervert!" "Hentai!" (Kiriyama was that person and she was sent to the teacher to handle the situation. She almost cried because of this.)
"Hey, I have a suggestion. What if we go to the washroom beforehand when we haven't exchange yet?"
Kiriyama raised her hand and asked.
"Didn't you just say that it has become embarrassing to go to the washroom?"
Inaba murmured helplessly.
"But, if we girls become [Taichi] or [Aoki], then we will see that scary thing when we go into the washroom! Yuck～～!"
Kiriyama patted her own arm, as if trying to make herself calm from the impact that she gave herself from remembering what she had experienced.
"I think there is no reason to become so sensitive. After all, it's just something on your body. And you will go into the toilet room to prevent yourself from touching that, right? But after you have mentioned that, Aoki and I will be extra careful of that."
"Alright. Thanks, Taichi."
"Hey, Taichi, why did you just increase your own popularity? I will also be more careful, Yui."
"It's fine if you are not so sensitive. Look, Yui, even I can already pee while standing!"
"That's just too much. And also, you shouldn't say that so jubilantly."
Taichi responded with a sharp-tongued response. He was left speechless when Nagase counter-attacked with a chaste smile.
"Right, the things on these guys aren't that big a deal. On that note, Taichi's thing is bigger."
Inaba grinned maliciously.
"Why do you care about these things... And please don't compare them! Also, Aoki! Please don't be so gloomy about this!"
"Well, let's leave this alone then. The thing is, is our virginity... are our bodies safe?"
Inaba stopped her jokes and inquired seriously.
Taichi could be distinct on this point.
"They're safe, right... Aoki?"
"Well, I did enter a girl's body... so it's inevitable that I would like to try those things... Eh? What? Don't look at me with those eyes! I didn't really do it... because it's unethical and there wasn't a time where I could go to the toilet... Ayahh... I am serious! Please stop glaring at me so sharply, hahaha..." Aoki's empty laughs reverberated throughout the room.
"I did nothing of the sort."
"Taichi... Hm, if you say so..."
Inaba was leaning to approval.
"Of course I also..."
Inaba checked Aoki with suspicious eyes.
"I'm speaking the truth! Trust is important these days, right? I wouldn't do such despicable deeds."
"—As you say."
Inaba was hesitated for a moment before expressing wryly. Taichi wanted to ask her "What's the matter?" but before he could, Kiriyama spoke to Aoki.
"Nyaa, speaking of which, when you became [me] in my house, you called my mother 'mum' instead of 'mother' which I usually say. And you always confuse which room is mine. That's unforgivable."
"Sorry. Although I did get asked a few times, 'what is with you today, sister?'"
"That is a huge problem!"
Inaba coughed twice to interrupt in the midst of their conflict.
"That is something to be properly taken care of. On the other hand, there are already rumours that there is something strange going on among us. Still, it's highly unlikely that they'll discover that the reason behind our behaviour is the exchange of our personalities."
Truly, without prior knowledge of the situation at hand, it would be hard for others to imagine what had happened. That's why our strange behaviour is usually accounted for as part of that person's personality.
"Speaking of being in our homes... Iori, when I became [you], even at midnight there was nobody home. What happened...? Well, I just think that a high school girl staying at home alone in the night is a bit dangerous..."
Kiriyama gradually diminished her voice, probably because the thing that she was mentioning could not be easily said.
Nagase stagnated for a while and didn't respond.
Utter silence fell upon the room.
"Oh... Well... That... That is because there wasn't a chance for me to talk about it. Actually, my parents are divorced. Right now, I live with my mother who's really busy... something like that. If something were to happen, I have pepper spray to counter the average boy. Then I can hit the hell out of them. So it's not something to worry about..."
"It *is* something to worry about! Even if they were just normal guys, the most dangerous thing to do is to treat them too carelessly! If you don't make good preparations beforehand, it'll be too late when something happens!"
Excited and indignant, Kiriyama cried with all her might.
"Eh...? Oh, uh...sor, sorry."
Nagase, flabbergasted, apologised.
This is really rare... No, this is something that has never happened before.
After Nagase apologised, Kiriyama calmed down and her aggravation subsided. She then lowered her head in apology.
"Hm, ah, I should be the one to say sorry."
The atmosphere became stiff and heavy.
—Looking back, they were quite lucky in some sense.
Even though something as aberrant as 'personality exchange' occurred, nothing special changed amongst them.
Of course, some inconvenience still existed.
But until now, the only changes that have occcured were superficial.
When people's personalities exchange between themselves randomly, is it possible that nothing will not be damaged or ruined?
Nope. No matter what, it's impossible.
It is just that those events have not yet arrived.
But how long will their luck stay?
Then, if 'those events' really occur, what will we become?
When people connect with each other, how will things transpire?
Inaba clapped her hands to make a 'bam' sound.
"To conclude, the duration of personality exchange, which is the time when some other person stays [in your body], only lasts for less than a few hours, so if every person uses [another's body] carefully, shoulder their responsibilities, and remedy any problems as soon as possible, it will mitigate the effects of the phenomenon. Of course, with only these measures, it's insufficient to solve the problem... Nah, for now it's still useless to talk about that."
Although a bit grudgingly, Inaba still managed to soothe the atmosphere.
Everyone passed the work of controlling the scene to Inaba, not just because of her naturally demanding and objective attitude, but more because of her ability to handle such situations. This was what Taichi thought.
She then switched to an ironic tone.
"The problem now is dealing with real harm that has been done, right, Aoki?"
"Eh, what harm?" Aoki gazed at her with his jaws wide-opened.
Inaba fell forward in shock.
"How could you forget? You scored a dismal mark on my English quiz!"
"Ah... That. But I really worked hard for it..."
"Seven out of thirty and you say that you worked hard for it! Thanks to you, I will be heading to the next remedial lessons! And that together with my usually good grades creates a reason for me to be questioned... What the hell! Even if you are stupid, causing trouble for others still makes you guilty."
"I can't help it. I don't want to be stupid, you know."
Aoki played with his hair discontentedly.
"Okay, Inaba, don't be so harsh on him. After all, that quiz won't affect your final grades; besides, even if a stupid person works and tries his best, he is still stupid."
Taichi tried to reconcile them, but then...
"Right, Inaba, stupid people can't be cured, even by dying."
"Yeah, Inaba, stupid people can just die stupidly."
Kiriyama followed the flow.
"Everyone, do you not recognize that you're not helping me? Or should I say, your words have gone too far?!"
Aoki was indeed beloved by everyone.
Although you may think this isn't something serious, it actually is. We don't know how long this personality exchange will last. If it continues until our mid-terms or finals..."
The three people (Taichi, Nagase and Kiriyama) exhaled and made an 'Ahhh' sound in unison. They started to imagine the words that Inaba deliberately left unfinished and became afraid.
The stupid person and the core of the problem, commenced.
"Eh? What do you mean? If I became [somebody else] during my exams and somebody becomes [me] then my number of failed subjects will decrease! Phew～"
"Then, similarly, somebody else will have more failed subjects! Or may I say, no one in this room fails exams except for you!"
Inaba's ironic words were not sympathetic towards Aoki.
"Let's think positively... and I mean positive! I believe this phenomenon will end very soon."
Kiriyama played with her hair and pressed her head while mumbling.
They continued their retrospection boisterously--which had started to become mere chatting mid-way--but when evening passed, Inaba said, 'my parents are coming back,' and the meeting was forced to end.
After leaving Inaba's place, Taichi, Kiriyama, and Aoki said farewell to Nagase, whose route was different, and they started to head back home. In theory, that is. When the three came to the interchange terminal, Aoki and Nagase switched personalities.
They contacted each other and confirmed their route home before continuing. Should they not recover by then, they would randomly find a place to kill time.
"Ah, so this is [Aoki's] perspective... it's quite high! This is my first time being [Aoki]. Well, his height is above 170cm."
Nagase [Aoki] was jovial and showed no sign of nervousness.
"Keep it down... No, actually, even if someone heard you, they wouldn't know what you were talking about."
Taichi wanted to remind her, but then changed his mind.
"Oh... Yui looks so petite and cute."
Nagase [Aoki], while teasing her, stretched out her hand to touch Kiriyama. However, Kiriyama knocked her hand away and ducked immediately. She also kept her distance from Nagase.
The two suddenly fell into an awkward silence.
They wanted to say that it wasn't a big deal, but the atmosphere made them reluctant.
Then, Nagase [Aoki] smiled wryly in embarrassment.
"No. It's not what you think, Nagase. I'm not keeping away because I hate you! It's just because you became [Aoki]. So..."
"I understand, Yui. I should be the one apologising... I was a bit reckless just now."
"...If Aoki sees this, the odds that he will weep are about eighty percent."
Thinking of his friend, Taichi sighed.
"That's because Aoki always has a strange attitude and would suddenly jump on me, so I would block him out of conditional reflex. I don't really hate him like you think I do! He may be stupid, but he's not evil..."
"Oh, well, you're right."
Although she responded with a few jokes, Kiriyama used a very serious tone. This left Taichi quite puzzled.
Then, Kiriyama's tram arrived and the other two could only say farewell in this stiff atmosphere.
Eventually, they arrived at the station nearest to Aoki's home, but because [Aoki]'s inner personality was still Nagase, Taichi decided to spend his time with her and got off the tram as well.
At the present stage of the personality exchange, considering all five Cultural Research Club members, exchanges occured between one and eight times a day and the exchange time varied from as short as one minute to as long as two hours. The duration wasn't as long as it seemed.
Taichi and Nagase [Aoki] went to the waiting room in the station. There were no other passengers in the room.
Taichi looked to his right and saw a familiar friend's face. But that wasn't who it was. Instead, another friend, a female friend, was sitting there.
"I was too careless..."
Nagase [Aoki] was silent throughout the journey in the tram. But she started to mumble because of boredom.
"Are you talking about your conversation with Kiriyama? Hmm, I think that's because of the wrong timing. You don't need to feel so regretful of that."
"It's good to think like that... But I can't... I don't want to do things that would upset people... I can't... I should never do that."
Nagase fell strangely silent. But it looked as if another kind of remorse was torturing her, even larger than the remorse for what she did to Kiriyama.
"Nyaaa～..." Nagase [Aoki] bent her body and covered her face with her hands.
Sensing her feeble and thin presence, Taichi was determined to support her to prevent her from shattering.
"Are you okay, Nagase? Is there anything I can do to help?"
Nagase [Aoki] didn't reply and stayed in static.
Time passed for a while.
Taichi felt it wasn't good to stare at someone for too long so he decided to place his eyes on the scenery outside.
Not long after, Nagase [Aoki] commenced lightly and softly.
"What's the matter?"
Taichi responded slowly.
"Well, after all this started, I went to the old bookstore to take a look at some so-called 'personality exchange' mangas."
"Oh, so you read mangas too."
Taichi couldn't see what she was trying to say.
"Most of those mangas talk about exchanges between boys and girls. Also, it was very likely that, in the manga, the girl who had become the [boy] would play with the thing on the boy's body!"
Nagase said with a bright and cheerful smile.
"So I'm thinking if should I also play with that thing on a boy..."
"Wait, wait a moment. What does this have to do with the conversation with Kiriyama?"
"Hehe, hohoho, what you saying, Taichi? How could there be any correlation?"
"Hey, where did that solemn atmosphere go? I was wondering if there were any important implications in your words so I concentrated and listened to you... Give me back my efforts!"
Nagase changed her mood really fast. She had looked agonized... but when did she actually start to think about those stupid things?
"I only said to do something with that thing on a boy. But I don't know how to do that so I want Taichi to help me to do that to that thing on a boy..."
"Stop talking about this! Also, although I don't know what you mean, but I won't help you to do 'that' to 'that thing' on a boy!"
"But if I were to do that on a boy, being inexperienced, in case something like that happens, it would be... like that."
"Enough, so you shouldn't do that to that thing on a boy, then that won't happen because you didn't do that on that thing on a boy."
"True, if I don't do that to that thing on a boy's body, then maybe that won't happen because I didn't do that on that thing on a boy. But at the same time, I'll not be able to do that to that thing on a boy to then rouse that condition which is called that...Nyaaa?"
"Nagase, let me say, you actually just want to say that and that all the time."
"My secret was unveiled～"
"You even have the guts to say that!"
"But Taichi became excited by our game too, right?"
...Taichi couldn't deny that. Indeed, he was excited by their game.
"Hmm... Seriously, I would never do 'that' on 'that thing' on a boy. If I did, I would be hated, right?"
"If that's that, then I wouldn't do it."
Nagase [Aoki] cackled. Because the smile was filled with satisfaction and glee, Taichi suddenly thought of—
"Is it because you wanted to investigate what actions to take during a personality exchange that you flipped through those mangas about 'personality exchange'?"
"Now is the time for Nagase Iori to question Taichi!"
Nagase intentionally interrupted Taichi. She looked a bit embarrassed while she [Aoki] made a ringing sound.
Seemingly depressed, but becoming excited in a flash. Appearing like she wasn't thinking much and just doing what she wanted, but actually thinking indefinitely and planning before all her actions. Saying erotic jokes without flushing or breathing heavily, but becoming embarrassed about odd things...The multitudinous expressions of Nagase became an attractive pearl in the eyes of Taichi.
Then, Nagase had another expression, an expression that was different and was hard to describe.
"We all believe that humans use our souls, or our consciousnesses, or our 'personality', to determine our identity, or who we are. Or in other words, this [body of Aoki] which contains the soul of Nagase is thought to be Nagase Iori. Although, this explanation brings us to a problem: our souls, or what we call conscious or personalities, are vague existences. What I mean by vague is that we can't see it nor touch it."
As if keeping distance from what was happening, a smile appeared on Nagase's [Aoki's] face.
"That is why, even though we agree that our existence is determined by our souls, or consciousnesses, or personalities, we usually determine each person's identity with their [body]. Look, we are experiencing the exchange of personalities everyday. But even when somebody feels that we were acting strange, they won't know the truth. Only we would, right?"
Nagase, as if a host on a show delivering a well-prepared speech, spoke calmly.
"That's right. In other words, our [bodies] are the foundations of who we are. But what if the [body], because of the personality exchange, becomes something vague as well? Can we still live with our own identities? I'm just popping ideas."
She then left a playful smile—right at that moment, [Aoki] momentarily closed his eyes and then opened them again.
"...Ayahh? Oh, Taichi." [Aoki] spoke and looked at his body.
"Hm... Oh, looks like I've recovered... Phew～I've finally come back to my own [body]... Hm, after a bit of thought, what I said about coming back to my own body seems a bit strange."
Looks like the personality exchange has ended. Towards what Aoki said about his recovery, Taichi just replied to his words without really thinking about it. He didn't even know what he was talking about.
He was just startled.
His mind was still occupied by the shadows of Nagase [Aoki].
With no expressions at all while plainly contemplating philosophical ideas and interpreting them, Nagase was very different from her usual self.
What did Nagase actually want him to know?
It was because of her calm demeanour that made her call seem like a tragic cry... that was what Taichi thought, but thoughts don't always reflect reality; after all, there were some things that he knew... and some that he didn't.
He was not able to comprehend what Nagase meant.
Nevertheless, he wanted to understand.
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