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Edited by RedPandaChick
Nothing happened for the rest of the day after our date. Though it didn't go as I expected, it went well—or so I wanted to believe. Suzuka and I chatted a little, but we didn't mention the date. Knowing her, she probably didn't find a way to start that conversation. But why didn't I ask her instead?
Kawahara-san asked us the usual questions about the body swapping in the group chat. We replied and asked her about her week; she said it was fine, the same as every year. Then she mentioned that she might've found an assistant for the experiments. I didn't expect that, but I was curious and asked who it was. She wasn't sure if they were going to accept, so she preferred not to tell us yet.
It was time for our annual family camping trip. The morning of the next day arrived and I woke up earlier than I normally did. After my daily routine and getting ready, I had some time to spare before going out. I laid down on my bed and searched through many online stores on my phone for a gift for Yu-tan. Once again, I couldn't pick anything.
What does a three-year-old want apart from toys and plushies?
Minutes later, I still had no luck, but I had made some progress. Advertisements about stuff for kids began appearing around the sites as if they knew I was struggling to find something. Until I finally found something.
Is it really for kids that small? Even so, I wonder if she'll like it.
Moriyama-san knocked on the door. "Araki-sama, everyone is ready to head out."
After saving the product on my wishlist, I grabbed the big backpack I had prepared and walked out of my room, where Moriyama-san was still waiting for me.
"Do you have everything you need?" she asked.
"Books? Pajamas? Power bank?"
"I do, Moriyama-san. Don't worry."
She smiled at me and we walked down the hallway towards the stairs. It was normal she was worried about it, it was the first time I had done my backpack myself. Mrs. Kozue's words, to become as independent as soon as I could, still wandered through my mind. So I took every opportunity to do so.
We walked downstairs where Fujisaki-san and Sakakibara-san were waiting. They were wearing ordinary clothes—something that only happened once a year for the family camping trip. On the floor beside them were bags and backpacks.
"Are you ready, Koji?" Fujisaki-san asked.
Not even a second later, Sakakibara-san—standing beside her—lightly knocked her on the head.
"Hey, what's that for?" she asked, caressing herself.
"When Araki-sama is here, he's Koji-sama. Since he's not here, Koji-sama becomes Araki-sama."
"I know that, but you told me I can call him however I want during the camp."
"The camp has yet to begin."
She bowed. "I apologize, Araki-sama."
"It's fine. You can call me however you want, I'm not like Father."
Once again, Sakakibara-san knocked her on the head.
"He gave you permission to call him however you want; you shouldn't hesitate."
"Fine, fine! I apologize, Koji."
"Apology accepted," I smiled.
The light and playful mood that the camping trip always brought was something I waited for throughout the entire year. And it was Fujisaki-san's first time camping with us; I was curious to get to know her more.
"You should head out before it gets too late," Moriyama-san said.
"Sure. Just let me say goodbye to Fuyu," I replied.
I stepped into the living room and approached Fuyu's home; a big cage in the shape of a house. We couldn't find a bigger one that matched the rustic style of the mansion and Father didn't allow me to let him wander around, so we ended up commissioning a house from a popular carpenter on the Internet whose videos I had watched.
I opened the cage from the top and stuck my hand inside to pet him. He instantly came out of one of the rooms and approached my hand.
Hello, Fuyu. I'm going camping and I'll return tomorrow. Behave well while I'm gone and don't give Moriyama-san or Yoshimura-san a hard time.
After a moment of petting him, I closed the cage and walked back to the hall. He's very cute.
We stepped out of the mansion and headed towards the car, where Yoshimura-san was waiting for us—wearing his butler outfit. He helped us put our stuff in the trunk and opened the doors for us to get in. Sakakibara-san sat in the front passenger seat beside Yoshimura-san, while Fujisaki-san sat next to me on the back seat.
"Is everything ready?" Yoshimura-san asked.
The three of us said yes and he drove out of the manor as we waved at Moriyama-san. A long, one-hour drive awaited us.
We left the city after a few minutes. The rest of the ride was going to be full of nature. We were headed to a quiet camping ground beside a river surrounded by mountains. Yoshimura-san, Sakakibara-san, and I chatted a little during the first part of the ride, but Fujisaki-san hadn't said much.
"Are you excited?" I asked her.
"I am. It's my first time camping and I'll get to spend time with the mysterious Koji."
"Totally. Mori-senpai and Sakakibara-san always scold me if I try to chat with you, so I have to do it on the sly. Not that I do it!" she nervously added after remembering he was there.
"That's true, but you're also mysterious to me. Moriyama-san and Sakakibara-san have been with me since I have memory and Yoshimura-san for a long time; I know them somewhat well. While you just arrived a year ago."
"I see. I hadn't thought about this from your point of view," she replied. "Okay, let's ask each other questions. You go first; shoot!"
She's quite energetic and direct.
"Sure. How old are you?"
"Koji-kun," Sakakibara-san chided.
Fujisaki-san and Yoshimura-san laughed.
"What is it?" I asked, confused.
"It's fine," Fujisaki-san said. "Koji, it's of common knowledge that you shouldn't ask a woman her age."
"Well, there are many reasons. It would be better to look it up on the Internet. But I don't mind telling you."
She nodded. "But I won't tell you. I'm your employee, you can check it whenever you want."
And she's even more playful when not being a maid.
"My turn! What does Koji like?"
"Games, manga, books, learning… I'm an ordinary guy."
"Except that you're rich."
"And what about the girl you went on date with?"
"You already asked a question. It's my turn."
"Ugh, you caught me," she grumbled. "Go ahead."
"What do you think of Yoshimura-san?"
Yoshimura-san glanced back at me for a split second before continuing driving, acting as if nothing happened.
"Yoshimura-san? I didn't expect this question. He can be annoying at times trying to act mature and makes dumb jokes, but I guess some of them are funny."
"Why do you ask?"
"Is that your next question?"
"No! I want to know something."
Yoshimura-san didn't look back again, but he seemed nervous.
Fujisaki-san and I continued asking many questions and we learned a lot about each other; she watches many videos and live streams, she became a maid because of her family, she likes to cosplay, her grades weren't good, and so on.
Almost an hour later, we arrived at the camping ground, located in a forest at the base of a mountain next to a river. It had everything to be a peaceful place, to breathe clean air, and to leave your worries behind—at least for a little.
Yoshimura-san parked in the small parking lot. We had already made a reservation, so we took our bags and backpacks from the trunk.
"I'll come to pick you up tomorrow at eleven o'clock. Be careful until then. Especially you, Fujisaki," Yoshimura-san said.
"See? He makes dumb jokes," Fujisaki-san told me.
I can't blame her for saying that. But I also understand where Yoshimura-san is coming from.
"We will. Be careful on the way back," Sakakibara-san replied.
"Sure. I might make a few stops to relax a bit. It's not often we get to go outside without having work."
"Don't make Moriyama wait too long."
"I already told her. Well, I should get going."
He got back in the car and drove off.
We stepped into the cabin next to the parking lot. Some people drank coffee inside, but not many. Sakakibara-san was about to approach the counter, but I stopped him.
"Sakakibara-san, can I do it?"
He stared at me in surprise. "Are you sure?"
I nodded and he smiled.
I approached the counter where a man was crouching down.
"Excuse me," I said.
"Give me a second," he replied, clearly struggling with something behind the counter. "I'm sorry. What can I help you with?"
I expected to see an adult or old man, but he was practically as young as me.
"We have a reservation to camp here today."
"Is something wrong?"
He sighed. "Yes. It's the first time I've been behind the counter and I can't find the reservations book. They are also waiting for the owner to come back," he said, looking at the four people sitting next to the window, drinking coffee.
"So we need to wait for the owner to come back?"
"Yes. I'm very, very sorry!" he apologized and bowed multiple times.
"It's fine. We'll wait."
"Thank you. I can give you free coffee if you want."
"I don't drink it, but thanks."
"I do!" Fujisaki-san shouted behind me.
"I'll get it right away! Please take a seat in the meantime," the guy replied, running towards the coffee machine.
I understand his anxiety and frustration, but being nervous won't help.
We sat at one of the tables.
Our camping starts well…
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