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New eBook Release: When Ai Met Yu

After being published in five parts on my own blog, it's time for this story to come to a wider audience. My first attempts at both a re...

Sunday, 21 May 2017

When Ai Met Yu - Notes and Acknowledgements

Now that I've published all entries in my story When Ai Met Yu, I'd like to show readers the notes I made on various aspects of LGBT life in Japan, both in relation to real life and popular fiction on the subject.

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On LGBT history in Japan: Unlike many other nations on Earth, Japan has no native religious taboo against same-sex relationships or transgender people, as its dominant Shinto faith is based around nature spirits and shamanism. Open gay relationships were an accepted part of Japanese samurai and Buddhist monastic society, and were similar to pederasty in Classical Greece. Women had less social freedom than men for a large part of Japanese history and consequently lesbian relationships were difficult if not impossible. Following the Meiji Restoration and the importation of Western ideas, prejudices against same-sex relationships and transgender people emerged. With the information age and the proliferation of BL and yuri – despite their frequently-skewed perspective on the realities of LGBT romance – general acceptance is appearing in the mainstream for LGBT communities.

On same-sex expression in Japan: Due to the nature of Japanese culture, the type of expression that might be expected from a Westerner is almost non-existent outside of popular media as such individualistic statements make that person seem out of place. Japan’s focus on community over individuals generally makes statements of sexual identity far rarer and more low-key than in accepting Western countries. Without that overt expression, there is a focus on people over aspects such as sexuality in most cases, so acceptance is more widespread except when there are social or corporate pressures. A major pressure to this day is the focus on continuing the family line, which leads to social discrimination against LGBT people from peers and loved ones alike.

On same-sex couples in Japan: As of 2017, several cities extend or are planning to extend same-sex partnerships many of the same rights as married couples, but there is nothing in law to enforce this. Same-sex marriage as understood in many Western countries is currently illegal in Japan, as Article 24 in Japan’s Constitution defines marriage as being between two people of the opposite sex. A common route adopted by same-sex couples is through the koseki, the governing body for family life in Japan, with a process similar to adoption taking place and one partner giving up their surname as a wife must do in Japanese heterosexual marriage. Informal marriages and instances of people living together also occur, and Japan has recognised marriage between a Japanese national and a foreigner in a country where same-sex marriage is legal. Popular support in Japan for equal marriage and partnership rights for LGBT people grows by the year, and several Japanese government officials have spoken publicly about pushing to legally recognise same-sex marriage.

On the pornographic manga owned by Airnori: As stated in Article 175 of Japan’s Penal Code, the sale and distribution of uncensored sexually explicit media is prohibited. Sexual elements are allowed only within very strict guidelines. The two most notable elements are that male genitalia should not be shown in detail – which still exists today – and that no pubic hair be shown – this part having been repealed during the 1990s. These resulted in various types of censorship ranging from lines and panels to pixelation depending on the medium. An active pornography market through specialist stores does exist in Japan, covering all media and being most widely recognised by Westerners through gei-comi or bara along with the BL and yuri genres. To avoid prosecution for infringing Article 175, Japanese pornography continues to incorporate elements of censorship in their work. Despite the production of illegal explicit pornography, the enforcement of Article 175 and prosecution of offenders is still rather spotty. While such media have brought LGBT people to a wider audience, they are acknowledged to present skewed or dramatic versions of real-life events, negatively affecting public perception of same-sex relationships.

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My acknowledgements go to the YouTube couple Rachel & June, particularly their video "Being LGBT (Gay) in Japan【同性愛者(日本)】日英字幕", which partially inspired the whole project.

In addition, I would like to include an acknowledgement to the intriguing work of Takeshi Matsu, a bara artist whose work has less pure erotica and more emotional depth than many other bara writers (you must absolutely be over 18 to see anything but the briefest and safest glimpses of his work, trust me).

Also, my gratitude must go to multiple authors both Japanese and Western, in addition to the encouragement of fellow author and Japan lover Sarah Ash, when creating this project.

If these notes have given you any interest, then please check out this article, which contains links to all four parts of When Ai Met Yu, an LGBT romance set in contemporary Japan.

Sunday, 14 May 2017

When Ai Met Yu; Part 4 - Family Matters

Airnori Uchida is a freeter trying to begin his working life in Tokyo - he is also gay, and struggles with understanding where reality and fantasy must separate. By chance, he meets up with an old friend from university in Yoyogi Park. A country boy from Kansai, Airnori and Yusuke Ishinori become firm friends, and Yusuke even saves Airnori from his gym teacher’s perverted attentions.

The two agree that Airnori will go on  a three-week visit to Yusuke's home in Kansai. Meeting Yusuke's family, Airnori learns that Yusuke is also gay, and unlike Airnori has complete confidence in his identity. The two revealed their feelings for each other, and one night the two make love. Though nervous, Airnori is guided by Yusuke, and learns the true feeling of love.

As Airnori becomes certain of his sense of self and Yusuke confirms his love for him, the two decide to take the next step. Yusuke - longing to see Airnori again - decides to make a visit to Tokyo. Meeting Airnori's family, Yusuke becomes more and more certain that they should be together. Airnori asks the question in both their hearts - “Do you think we could spend more time together?”

Read Part 1; A Country Boy here, Part 2 - Kansai Reservations here, and Part 3 - Tokyo Resolution here.

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The question surprised me a little. “It depends. I mean, if it’s just visits like this, then I don’t know. We’ve both got our own careers to think of. But besides that, if we’re really gonna make a go of this, I want us to understand one thing. I don’t want this to be some whirlwind romance. If there’s anything here, I’d like to know whether it’s substantial or not. I know I’m sounding like some BioWare character, but sometimes they hit the nail on the head.”

“Guess they do. Well....” Airnori shuffled a little closer. “I’d like it to be more than just brief visits. I want this to have... a permanence.”

The two of us were within inches of each other now. I bent close and kissed him, then we were in each other’s arms. It felt right and proper, and be damned with anyone else’s opinion. Ten minutes later, we were just lying still in each other’s arms, taking comfort from our mutual presence. Suddenly Airnori spoke.

“I’ll tell my family tomorrow.”

“You.... Eh? This is sudden.”

“I don’t want to hide it from them. I want them to know. I’ll be finding happiness with someone I love. Who cares whether they’re a girl or a guy.”

I smiled. “That’s the Ai I know.”

We spent some little time like that, lying together, comfortable with each other’s company, a true expression of love.

The next day I didn’t see Airnori at all. I didn’t want to speculate what was happening, but all the same that night I had unsettling dreams. I think I’d been watching too much IS-related news last thing before bed or something, because those dreams were pretty disturbing. The next day, I went to Yoyogi Park for a walk, and saw Airnori sitting by himself on the bench where we had met by chance nearly two months before. He was depressed, drooping so that his fine frame looked as if someone had bent it. I approached, concerned.

“Ai?”

Airnori looked at me, and I was shocked to see tears in his eyes. I sat down and put an arm round his shoulders at once. Almost at once, Airnori buried his head in my shoulder and his back heaved with silent sobbing. I didn’t know what to do, but I felt suddenly afraid of being seen. Whether gay or not, these kinds of displays are not for the public walks of a Tokyo park. I steered Airnori into a quiet corner I remembered within a stand of bamboo, and we found a leaf-covered seat waiting for us. Once there, I gently asked what was wrong. Airnori had to force the words through his sobbing.

“I... I went home. I decided yesterday was a good time. When Dad and Hiroe were there, I decided to tell them. I told them in the best way I could. I told them I wanted to spend my life with you, that I loved you. They didn’t say anything for a few seconds, then Hiroe nodded and grinned like she always does. She’d always support her big brother. But Dad just stayed quiet. He did nod eventually, and said... Oh God, he said he understood. Yu, I don’t know what to do!”

He was on the point of bawling for a moment. I embraced him, knowing what he feared. The displeasure of a father is one of the last things wanted in Japan for whatever reason. Being gay would only make things worse if the wrong messages were displayed. I didn’t know how to handle it. It was all like some weird dream. I would have gone with him had I been more confident in my ability to win over any resistance there might be. But I also had faith that the family of Airnori would be as open and casual as he was. That was the impression I’d received from my visit there when I first reunited with Airnori. Was I wrong?

That night, I insisted that Airnori stay in my room. I gave some reason to the hotel staff and Airnori was installed in my room. It wasn’t quite the done thing, but I didn’t care. He needed a friendly face. Before we left, he told me he had just gone out first thing that day and hadn’t eaten a thing since yesterday. I took him to the nearest ramen bar and prayed he wouldn’t start crying into the ramen in full view of all the customers. Thankfully he controlled himself admirably, and I made a point of steering him away from any alcoholic drinks – the last thing a depressed or upset person needs is an expensive depressant.

It was the next day that I received a text. I didn’t tell Airnori who it was from. I said it was an old friend, and that he should get together with one of his local friends. He did, and after I’d seen him safely into the care of Ryuji – a man I remembered from university – I went to Airnori’s family apartment. There, I was met by Daisuke Uchida. He said his daughter was out, and wanted to talk about Airnori. The way he said ‘talk’ made me dread the exchange. Once we were both seated on opposite sides of the Uchida family kotatsu, with a cup of tea in front of me, Uchida-san spoke directly to me.

“I’ve heard a lot about you, Ishinori-san. You’re a close friend of Airnori. In fact, yesterday he told me you were his lover.”

“I can’t deny it, Uchida-san. I love him, he loves me. It’s because of him that I’m here at all.”

“I understand. I thought I hadn’t left a good impression.”

“That’s his impression.”

“I’m sorry if I caused him grief. If Akane were still alive, she would’ve made that exchange go a lot smoother.”

“Akame?”

“My late wife.”

“I see.”

“If you would, I wish to tell you a story.” Uchida-san’s eyes closed. “Many years ago, this young and foolish man without any family or title fell in love with another woman – he was so besotted with her that he dreamt of her every night and wanted to see her every day. Her family didn’t want her to marry someone like him, someone from a low family. Her family were important, had connections, wanted a bright future for her. As the law was on her side, she defied her parents and ran away with the young man. They set up home in Tokyo and led a happy life for many years. One of the things they agreed upon was that they would never restrict their children as her parents had tried to do. The woman’s name was Akane Kato, and the man’s was Daisuke Uchida.”

I understood what Uchida-san was saying. I picked up the cup in front of me, took a slight sip of its dark and rich contents. My next words came stiffly.

“So you do not object?”

“To be honest,” Uchida-san suddenly smiled. “the main reason I didn’t react that strongly was because I’ve known for so long, and it was a relief that he finally accepted it and found someone he loved.”

I almost dropped the cup. “Eh?!”

“I’ve known since he was a high schooler.” Uchida-san’s tone relaxed. “I’ve known he held strong attachments to men, and I was more than willing to accept him. I heard that one my great-aunts loved another woman, but that was before woman had the freedoms they have now, and even today it’s difficult. You’re lucky being men.”

“Trust me, I wish it wasn’t so.”

“I don’t approve of the imbalance any more than you do. But listen – if your family is happy with you, I’ll not prevent you two from getting together. I’ll support you if you need it, and you’ll always be welcome on my home. To be honest, I’d imagined having a son-in-law like you. Just didn’t entirely expect it to be Airnori bringing you to my door.”

I chuckled. “Not the standard scenario, I agree.”

“There is one thing I can’t help with.” said Uchida-san, suddenly grave. “And I think you know what that is.”

“I know.” I said. “We can’t marry.”

“I wish you could, believe me. But if you need help with the koseki formalities if that’s the route you choose, I’ve got a good grasp of law. I can also help look up places to live where you and Airnori wouldn’t be short-changed by the civil law.”

“Thank you, Uchi–... No, not now. Given the circumstances, I think I can say this now. Thank you, Father. For everything.”

I bowed my head. It was the first time I’d ever bowed to anyone outside my teachers and immediate family. But then, wasn’t Uchida-san part of my family now? As I left, Uchida-san asked me if I could bring his son home so they could talk face to face. I said yes, and he shook my hand warmly. He may appear like a stone pillar, but he’s a kind man in so many ways.

When I was shown out, I almost ran back to that bench in Yoyogi Park where I guessed Airnori would have gone. I saw him there, and saw that he was still looking depressed. I told him everything about my meeting with his father. For a second, he didn’t seem to believe me, then I grabbed his hand and all but pulled him home. I knocked on the door, and as it opened I pushed Airnori forward a little. Father and son stood face for face for a little while, then I left. But before I was completely out of view, I glanced back and saw something. Uchida-san put his arm around Airnori’s shoulders and guided him inside. I smiled. It would be alright.

It was another day or two before I saw Airnori again, and he was over the moon, almost dancing into my hotel room and telling me everything about his conversation with Uchida-san. Things had gone better than even I expected, and when Hiroe came home, she was ecstatic too, and pledged that she would help in any way possible. As if we really needed help, it’s not like we would be dependants just because we went outside social norms. As we sat on the bed and talked, Airnori finally forwarded Uchida-san’s most pertinent question.

“He wants to know, and so do I, whether we’ll be using the koseki or not.”

I’d thought about it since that day. The koseki would make things simpler, but I felt like it would be a betrayal of some kind either of me or Airnori. I didn’t want that for either of us. After all, there were places in Japan that didn’t have to have two men bound by the ritual of the koseki.

“I.... don’t think we’ll be needing it.”

“Yeah.” Airnori grinned. “That’s what he said you’d say.”

He hugged me, and I felt relieved. It felt like a dream coming true, with everything falling into place. That night, he didn’t go home. He had told his family he might not be back that night. That night, on that bed, we made love. Oh, how we made love. I didn’t expect anything like it. I’ve already said that being in bed with a man is exhilarating, but in that moment we weren’t men or women, just two people in the throws of love.

The following morning, I woke up and wondered if that entire episode and everything before had been just a dream. It was more than likely. But I felt a hand reach into my hair, turned my head, then bent close and kissed Airnori. He had shared my fear, but we each spoke at once.

“It wasn’t a dream.”

When I did eventually go home to Kansai, I didn’t anticipate any resistance towards my match. And there wasn’t. Not from my Sensei, not from my family. It was wonderful, and my sisters desperately wanted to meet Airnori’s sister Hiroe. Over the next week, we arranged a meeting. Airnori and his family would come down to Kansai for a week’s stay, and we would arrange a party where the two families could meet up properly. That week came faster than I could have imagined, and when it happened, it was a properly enthusiastic party. The families greeted each other, talked, pondered the future of us two.

Airnori and me spent time getting to know those who would be our new siblings-in-law. I’ve got to say I loved Hiroe, and Airnori told me he still enjoyed my sisters’ conversation and humour. In general, it was wonderful. I also got a chance to talk with my Sensei, and it was then that some concrete details emerged. Apparently one of my Sensei’s closer comrades said there was a well-paid vacancy at their art company in Iga in Mie Prefecture. It was a dream-come-true. And I remembered something I’d read a few years before about Iga recognising same-sex couples and granting them some of the same rights as normal married couples.

“You would be happy there, yes.” said Sensei, as if she had only just thought of it herself. “I wish you good luck in your profession. And your love life.”

It felt right: it was still within my country comfort zone, it was within easy reach of Tokyo and Kyoto, and it was a friendly city. I thanked my Sensei, and all she did was nod as if my answer had been a foregone conclusion. I’m now wondering whether she wangled the position for me in advance. I’ve never found out.

Airnori and me moved into our new home three months later, when my apprenticeship was complete. It was difficult at first, adjusting to a life so far from either of our homes. But we had each other, and we knew what we wanted. During that time, Airnori actually did something I’d suggested; he went back to his mangaka dream. He got writing, and decided to create something realistic. He said it was based on us.

“Don’t write everything in.” I said. “They wouldn’t publish outside of bara.”

We both laughed at that. It was a fun joke.

I think... the last thing I want to record here is this. Three months after we had fully settled in, Airnori had done us a good dinner after I’d come back from a difficult day at work. Our company had been contracted to do the majority of artwork and designs for a major multimedia project, and I’d been lumbered with the task of creating supporting and minor character designs while one of the more senior artists handled the main cast. That night, Airnori didn’t pressure me at all, nor did I pressure him. We both just felt like it. As the moon shone above, I lay in Airnori’s arms, fondling his hair, and bent close to him.

“Just know. Whatever happens. Everything was worth it.”

“Yeah.”

“I love you, Ai.”

“I love you too, Yu.”

We kissed. And the night passed well. Like so many days and nights to come.


Airnori Uchida published his first one-shot manga a year after moving to Iga with Yusuke. It was taken up by Shonen Jump, who later commissioned a full forty-chapter manga based on the one-shot’s premise. His real-world-set shonen manga, ‘The Flower of Kansai’, was praised for its emotional sensitivity and won numerous awards, kickstarting Uchida’s prolific mangaka career.

Yusuke Ishinori gained notoriety on the multimedia project for his character designs and environmental artwork. He was soon asked to design the main characters of a new project, and would become a senior artist in the company. He went on to earn international acclaim and lucrative commissions for his artwork, and would even collaborate with notable mangaka and artists of the day.

While the exact details haven’t been released for private reasons, it is known and commonly attested that Airnori and Yusuke live together happily in Iga.

Sunday, 7 May 2017

When Ai Met Yu; Part 3 - Tokyo Resolution

Airnori Uchida is a freeter trying to begin his working life in Tokyo - he is also gay, and struggles with understanding where reality and fantasy must separate. By chance, he meets up with an old friend from university in Yoyogi Park. A country boy from Kansai, Airnori and Yusuke Ishinori become firm friends, and Yusuke even saves Airnori from his gym teacher’s perverted attentions.

The two agree that Airnori will go on  a three-week visit to Yusuke's home in Kansai. Meeting Yusuke's family, Airnori learns that Yusuke is also gay, and unlike Airnori has complete confidence in his identity. The two revealed their feelings for each other, and one night the two make love. Though nervous, Airnori is guided by Yusuke, and learns the true feeling of love.

Read Part 1; A Country Boy here, and Part 2; Kansai Reservations here.

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Being in bed with a man is an exhilarating experience, especially when it’s someone you’ve had a crush on since university. Airnori was in front of me, one leg wrapped round my buttocks and all but devouring my neck with kisses. I was giving him my all and caressing him with my lips and hands in every place I could sensibly reach in my position.

“God, this is great.” I heard him mutter.

“Yeah. It’s great. Is it what you expected?”

“You kidding? Of course not. Oh Yu.”

“Ai.”

Yeah, I think you get the picture. A few weeks before, I’d met up with a guy I hadn’t seen since university, Airnori Uchida. Me? I’m Yusuke Ishinori. He was the same guy I said I’d stay in touch with when my father’s cancer came out of the blue. I’d managed to find him again, and he’d agreed to stay with me in Kansai. My sister revealed that I was gay, just like him. That night, I decided to make the first move, to help him. He was obviously a bag of nerves. I didn’t want to force him to do anything, but I also wanted... Well, we didn’t need to force anything. I did need to help him. He had the weirdest notions about needing to adopt a seme-uke dynamic when we need not do anything of the kind.

It was the fourth day after he’d learnt about me and I’d decided to help him out, and we’d decided to have another go together. The first time had been more than successful after a rough start, and I noticed later that it had broken Airnori out of his shell a little. He’d chucked away that weird manga of his at long last. I didn’t know why he’d bought it, only that he didn’t need it any more. The next day he was laughing, decided to go for a long run, and then we spent time with my sisters again. He played with my youngest, and I had a chance to talk with Hana.

“You knew?”

She nodded. “I knew. I didn’t know what to tell him exactly when you first told me about him. But when I saw him, I knew he was alright. I hope things work out.”

“So to I. You know,” I scratched my head. “I never thought it would turn out like this for me. He’s weird and brash and so shy, but I really like him.”

“He’s your other. Your opposite. He’s the part of you that you’ve been missing. Talking of missing, aren’t you supposed to be meeting your Sensei today?”

“Crap! Apologise to Ai for me.”

“Ai? Oh, Airnori. Sure.”

My Sensei was indeed waiting for me as I rushed down the street towards her house, and she had reserved one of her cooler expressions for me. She knew full well about my sexuality, and she didn’t give a damn. She only cared about fostering my artistic talents. She was the one who discovered me after university, and even as she now helped me complete a sketch I had been working on, she didn’t say a word about why I had been late. It wasn’t until the very end, when I had completed my work and she was giving me tea that she spoke.

“I heard your friend Airnori came to visit.”

“Yes, Sensei.”

“Was he the reason you were late?”

“Partly that, Sensei.”

A long silence developed. My Sensei chose her words very carefully when they meant anything, and they always did.

“I wish you happiness. But do not let it impact your studies in anything but a positive way. Art may depict sadness, but it only thrives when the artist is happy. Paint when you are sad, and the work is less than pitiful.”

“I understand, Sensei. I won’t be unhappy. You’ve ensured that.”

“I didn’t teach you the skills of art for you to turn them into a crutch if your heart is broken. Such folly worse than painting with a saddened heart.”

“I understand, Sensei.”

“Do you? I must question that for your own good. Can you, from the depths of your heart, say that you love this man?”

“I can, Sensei.”

“Then tell him full to his face. Tell him that you wish to spend the rest of your life with him, whatever the future may hold. And if he refuses, that is his decision, not yours, so do not carry the guilt. If he cannot see you as anything but a physical shell, he is not worthy of you.”

“Thank you, Sensei.”

“Now, once tea is finished, I will give you the rest of the day off. But do not think I will go easy on you every day.”

“I will not. Thank you, Sensei.”

This was quite the occasion. It wasn’t every day that my Sensei let me go with only half a day’s tutelage done, let alone on a day when I’d been late. I had to come back tomorrow an hour early to make up for it, but I still didn’t regret her decision or mine. I was able to get home and tell Airnori all about her. He looked concerned that she was a bit of a hard ass, but I assuaged his fears. She’s strict when she needs to be for my own good, but she isn’t heartless. I said that the rest of the day was ours, and asked whether we could go up to the hill again. I was surprised that he agreed, and when we were at the top of the hill, we found a bench and sat down.

“No tanuki today.” he said, smiling.

“No. Say, Ai, I want to tell you something.”

“Sure.”

“It’s actually why I asked for this walk.”

“So what’s on your mind?”

I had to brace myself slightly. “My Sensei said something to me today. She asked me ‘Can you, from the depths of your heart, say that you love this man?’. I said I could, and then she said I should tell this man to his face that I love him, and that ‘if he refuses, that is his decision, not yours, so do not carry the guilt’. And said that if he didn’t see me for more than my body, it was his fault.”

I glanced at Airnori, who responded in an irritated way. “Your teacher really is a hard ass. You sure she isn’t a yokai waiting to eat you?”

“I admit she gives that impression sometimes, but she only has my best interests at heart. Though she’d never admit it fully to my face.”

“So do you?”

“Do I?”

“Love this man?”

“Yes, deeply.”

“Then tell him.”

I looked directly at him. “Airnori Uchida, I love you. I want to spend the rest of my life with you, come what may. What’s your answer?”

Airnori remained quiet for some little time, then suddenly he embraced and kissed me. I was startled, but I didn’t resist. He then leaned next to my ear.

“I love you too, Yusuke Ishinori. Don’t you ever forget it. I don’t care if it’s forever or just for this trip, I’m gonna enjoy it. You’re the guy I like. Dammit, Yu, I’m getting hard just thinking about it.”

“I’m not sure whether sounding like that manga of yours is a good thing or not.”

“Hmm? Oh, sorry. It slipped out. But I am–”

“I don’t doubt it, but there’s no need to spell it out for me. Anyway, I can feel it.”

“I know. It’s like–”

“I mean literally feel it.”

“Eh?!”

“It’s prodding my leg.”

“Oh, sorry.” Airnori shuffled away, turning beetroot red. “So sorry. I didn’t– Well, I wouldn’t– Urg, this is embarrassing.”

“Tell me about it.” I began laughing. “But at least you didn’t tell me to go find a kappa or something.”

“You’re utterly impossible. Come here.”

Airnori tried to kiss me again, and I dodged slightly so his lips struck my neck. I then kissed him, and we ended up playfully tumbling on top of each other on the bench. We didn’t ‘get it on’ or anything like that, but we did kiss each other until our lips went numb and our hands explored all that decency permitted. We didn’t realise until Airnori glanced up that a young courting couple – a man and woman this time – had walked up and had been staring at us for perhaps the past minute. We must have looked like protagonists plucked from the pages of a BL light novel.

I don’t know what we should have done, but we just burst into a fit of giggling and ran past the two as if we’d been caught vandalising. They probably followed us with their gaze, but all I could focus on was Airnori – his hand in mine, his eyes fixed on me – as we ran back towards town. When we reached the bottom of the hill, we stopped to catch our breath, then Airnori spoke.

“Hey, when the holiday’s over, we’re really gonna keep in touch, right? Maybe you can come and stay in Tokyo for a while.”

“Sure. By the way, you don’t have to act on it, but I really think you should make a crack at being a mangaka. Alongside your other stuff.”

“You’re sure?”

“You’ve got talent. And I know you can tell a good yarn. Go for it.”

Airnori laughed gently. “You’re alright, Yu.”

“I should hope so, after what we’ve just done.”

We laughed again and made our way back home, talking happily. The evening passed in a flurry of talk and laughter, like a dream. That night, we arranged our beds so we could sleep together. It was enough just to be side by side that night, eventually sliding into each other’s arms and dropping to sleep. That night was bliss, and the dreams I had stay with me to this day. They were good dreams.

The rest of his stay there went like a breeze, and in between spending time with him, being with my family, and attending my Sensei’s lessons, I didn’t have a lot of free time. But then, I didn’t need it. Spending time with Airnori was my free time, and it was wonderful. I was so sad when it came time for him to go home. I stayed on the platform until his train was out of sight, and when I got home at the end of the day, I felt hollow. It was then that I knew I needed him in my life. I needed him so badly. It was like a disease, but one that filled me with energy and hope rather than draining me of both.

“You’ll see him again.” my sisters said. “Guaranteed.”

I really wanted to believe them. I did believe them.

It was another month before I got the message from Airnori I really wanted to see in my email inbox. It was an invitation to visit Tokyo for as long as I liked. I decided three weeks was enough time, and having received permission from my Sensei, I booked a hotel suit in Meguro City where Airnori lived, not too far from his own home, and travelled down there with two suitcases and a strong wish to hug Airnori when I got there. I got my wish, thought I had to be somewhat delayed due to circumstances beyond my control.

As when I’d passed through the many toll areas, I saw Airnori waiting for me at the bottom of an escalator. Next to him was a young girl about a head shorter than him, and when we met, he introduced her as his sister Hiroe. I greeted her, and she was telling me in a bubbly way how thrilled she was to finally meet me.

“I’ve been so wanting to see you! Onii-chan’s told me loads of stuff. I never expected you to be so... normal.”

Airnori went red. “Onee-chan, no need to–”

“It’s alright.” I said, grinning. “I don’t mind.”

It seemed Airnori had really been telling Hiroe about me for some time. We spent a little time together in Shibuya as a threesome, and I suddenly felt reassured – if his sister was this alive, Airnori could loosen up and be an even greater source of joy in my life. I asked Airnori whether he would like to visit my apartment, and he agreed. Hiroe had another date to keep, so it was just a matter of checking in, making sure I could receive visitors, then having Airnori help me with my luggage. When we were inside and the room door was closed, we each dropped the cases and embraced.

“It’s been way too long.” Airnori’s voice was unexpectedly soft. “I’ve missed you.”

“I’ve missed you to.” my embrace was perhaps even stronger than his own. “I didn’t want to stay away for so long. I’ve only got my Sensei’s grace like this because I worked extra hard and got ahead on my work.”

“Yeah. Feels like it.”

Airnori was feeling my hips and buttocks. Not wanting this to degrade into that creepy scene from Urusei Yatsura, I suitably but gently chastised him with a gentle pinch for being so forward before I’d even unpacked. He gave me a day to settle in, then we were off around Tokyo.

I hadn’t been really around Tokyo in a long time, except when Airnori led me round in our university days. He took us to a few of our old haunts, then on to new places he had found in the intervening time. It was wonderful being with him, like my entire world had returned back to that blissful time in our youth, when all the world lay before us. It was great to just let our hair down, let ourselves be ourselves in each other’s company, and reminisce about the old days. Airnori went home for the first few nights, then I reminded him that I could have visitors.

I didn’t know what to expect, but I ended up having Airnori as a visitor that evening. Standing in the doorway, sliding in alongside me as I opened it, I felt like I was doing something erotic. I closed the door quickly.

“How’s things?”

“Can’t complain.” Airnori almost immediately flopped on the bed. “Father’s out on a job, Hiroe’s got someone having a sleepover. Your invitation couldn’t have been better timed.”

“Thanks.” I grinned. “So... you’ve noticed it’s a double bed...”

Airnori glanced, and saw he had indeed lain on one half of a double bed. I walked round and flopped next to him, then we gazed at each other. I smiled softly, he returned it, I felt our hands interlocking. It was wonderful.

“So how’s Tokyo since you were here as a student?”

“It’s different. I’ve grown so used to Kansai.”

“I didn’t notice anything. Oh yeah, I tell a lie. That cool family-run ramen bar we used to hang at closed when the family head died. Apparently he was the financial brains, and they didn’t want new management, so they closed.”

“That’s sad. That was good ramen.”

“Hey, there’s a good curry place. Not as good as my curry.”

“You can cook?”

“Sure.”

“Why didn’t you tell me that while you were visiting?”

“Didn’t seem to matter.”

“Well tell me next time. Getting all the meals done... It’s not easy being a host, you know.”

“I know. Don’t get angry. Your face goes all crinkly when you’re angry.”

“I thought you liked my face crinkly. It didn’t stop you interrupting me in the middle of studies. I think I lost a couple of points from my final exams because of you.”

“Oh thanks.”

I reached out and felt Airnori’s thigh. It was delightfully full, but didn’t stray into that weird ‘fat’ class so many seem to think gay men prefer. It was unusual to be lying together like this, but also oddly relaxing. Finally, We each turned on our sides, facing each other.

“Do you think we could spend more time together?” asked Airnori.


Next week, Airnori and Yusuke find the courage to commit to their love, but will both their families accept this unconventional romance? Next week, the grand finale; Part 4 - Family Matters.