The Shape of Love (Dragon Magazine September 2016)
Xenovia, Irina and Asia. They can generally be described as Devils and an Angel who are ‘innocent and naïve’, or perhaps even ‘ignorant of worldly knowledge’. Kiryuu Aika’s evil grasp approaches these three girls of the Occult Research Club. However, Kiryuu’s kindness veils her ulterior motives; be careful, Church Trio!
It happened to be the lunch break of a certain day. It was a rather sunny day on this occasion, so Asia, Irina and I had lunch together in a corner of the campus grounds. After finishing our meal, I, Xenovia, removed a book from a paper bag that I had brought from the classroom.
“Xenovia, what is that?”
Irina asked in wonder.
“Hmm? This huh. It’s a ‘thin book’  that I got from Kiryuu.”
Indeed, it was the thin book that I had received from Kiryuu. Irina gazed at the book with interest.
“It certainly is a thin-looking book. Based on the cover…is it a manga?”
As she said, the cover did indeed display manga-style illustrations on it. I passed the book along to Asia and Irina so that they could take a closer look while I explained what I had heard from Kiryuu to them.
“Well, it seems to be called a ‘doujinshi’. I’ve heard that both amateurs and professionals make derivative works for commercial purposes, and they sometimes even write about new creative ideas to express themselves.”
It was apparently very popular in Japan, and there were many products across a vast number of categories. It could be described as a unique cultural aspect of Japan which was home to both anime and manga. Asia tilted her head as she asked
“Then, what is the content of this ‘doujinshi’?”
“The title is [Prince x Beast ~Beast Capture Completion~]. It sounds a bit scary, but the two boys on the cover — they’re Ise and Kiba.”
I showed the two males on the cover to them. Both Asia and Irina were incredibly surprised.
“Eh!? A manga with Ise-kun and Kiba-kun!? Wow!”
Irina was in awe. I was also quite surprised when Kiryuu told me about it. It was only natural. After all, the two people who were often at my side had become the characters of a new creation. I told the two of them about what I had heard from Kiryuu.
“Yeah, it’s amazing. I never imagined that a manga of those two existed. It seems to be a work that the Manga Club made in secret, and it’s mainly be circulated around by the girls of the school. This is even said to be the second series…”
The first series had supposedly already concluded after twenty long volumes, and it was out of print as well. This was the long-awaited new work that female students coveted, and even Kiryuu said that she had gone through many hurdles in order to acquire a copy. This information made Asia feel incredibly touched.
“Everyone in the Manga Club has participated in their club activities with such passion in order to publish this manga. It seems so remarkable. They’re worthy of respect for being the creators. After all, it’s something that I just wouldn’t be able to do.”
Irina also nodded as she agreed.
“I totally agree, Asia-san. Students should be proud that they’re able to draw manga.”
I also felt the same way. Those who knew how to be creators were awesome people, and I could feel their overflowing talent. From my perspective as a former warrior, these were abilities that belonged to a completely different world. However, this [Prince x Beast] also had a side to it that couldn’t be exposed to the outside world.
“However, it seems that this book only circulates within the school. It’s not something that can easily be purchased off the shelf. Apparently even the Student Council has its sights set on this book.”
Supposedly, the Student Council had performed rigorous inspections and even issued warnings and confiscations. Even so, the Manga Club members didn’t give up, and they continued the series under the radar of the Student Council, and finally completed it. I couldn’t help but admire their passion. There are inquisitions no matter the era. This must’ve been something that they wanted to express regardless of the restrictions. It could be said that their passion far exceeded the reach of the Student Council. However, Irina nodded in agreement with the Student Council’s perspective.
“That’s quite normal. It’s against school rules to bring manga to school. As a product of club activities, it shouldn’t cause any kind of conflict, but I still feel that it shouldn’t be circulated within the school.”
Upon hearing that…I also felt that it seemed correct. I cleared my throat a few times to change the topic.
“Well, let’s put that aside for now. The three of us should take a look. Kiryuu said that we can’t miss out on this series as female students of Kuoh Academy.”
“This should be rather interesting.”
“Yes! I like manga, so I’m really looking forward to it!”
It seemed that both Irina and Asia were interested. Even though Irina had made a point of her stern opinion, she was unable to suppress her curiosity toward the creation which featured Ise and Kiba as the protagonists.
The three of us huddled together around the book. As we opened the pages of the book, the shoujo-manga style drawings of Ise and Kiba appeared.
“…Hmm, the eyes of Ise in this manga really sparkle.”
Compared to the real Ise, the lines of the drawing occasionally made him look more slender. I often saw his naked body, and it was more muscular and masculine. I thought that the clouded expressions that were occasionally depicted on Kiba had been done well though.
“Ise-kun, he’s really sparkling.”
“The Ise-san in this manga is also handsome.”
Irina and Asia looked at Ise in the manga with serious expressions. Well, I also like seeing Ise in manga. As we turned the pages, it seemed as though the physical contact between Ise and Kiba increased. As we continued…the touches that they shared with their hands intensified.
“Umm, this is…”
“…It feels like the male friendship between them is overdone, and they’re completely stuck to each other…”
In order to find out more about what kind of creation this was, the three of us continued to read—. The page on which Ise and Kiba…crossed lips with each other appeared!
In shock, all three of us unwittingly moved away from the book! W-What was that…? I-Ise and Kiba…gradually got close…a-and kissed…? W-Why would male friends…. After Irina took a deep breath and recomposed herself, she spoke in an unusually high-pitched voice.
“W-W-Wait, Xenovia! T-T-T-T-T-That’s…!”
Asia’s face trembled and she even seemed to let off steam from her head as she was unable to hide her shock.
“Huuuu! W-W-W-W-W-W-W-W-Why are Ise-san and…Kiba-san doing…huuu…!”
Hmm, Ise and Kiba…this is bad.
“…No, to be honest, I’m also surprised. C-Could this be that thing between men…homosexuality?”
Irina breathlessly replied
“Y-Yes. Between boys, i-i-it’s like that…geez! What are you making me read!? I’m an Angel you know!? I’ll fall if I keep reading that!”
“S-Sorry. I didn’t think it’d be that kind of book…”
I candidly apologised to Asia and Irina. Thanks to Ise’s influence, I had also become exposed to more questionable books and media content, but it was the first time that I had directly touched upon something about same-sex love. It was also quite startling that the creation was about my comrade. After calming down, Asia said
“…But, before that scene, I think it showed the usual appearances of Ise-san and Kiba-san. The two of them always talk closely, and it seems like they talk about things that they can’t say to us.”
That was true. Just as Asia said, Ise and Kiba were often together. No, they spent an excessive amount of time together. It was possible to see them chatting to each other during breaks in various obscure areas of the school, and they mostly trained together as well. Perhaps the time that Ise and Kiba spend together exceeds the amount of time that Ise spends living with us?
“In other words, there’s a realistic basis for this. Hmm, I also remember witnessing other situations like those in the manga. Those two…there are too many secrets to their male camaraderie!”
I see, so that’s how the Manga Club came up with the idea to create this work. They thought that the relationship between those two went beyond mere friends or comrades, and that they had become lovers. That notion had been captured in this thinly-made book — a ‘doujinshi’!
“Among the female students, there is probably a portion of them who view Ise and Kiba like this.”
My words caused both Irina and Asia to tilt their heads as they dove into thought.
“…Then, do Ise-kun or Kiba-kun like each other?”
“Isn’t Ise-san going out with Rias-oneesama? Something like that with Kiba-san…”
Then, how does Kiba see Ise…? No, wait, it’s most certainly something that is worrying. Kiba often directs warm gazes at Ise. They also seem happy when they have mock battles with each other. When I go shopping with Ise, he sometimes chats with Kiba on his phone rather joyfully! …I see, it seems that the female students may actually have uncovered the truth! —The true person who has captured Ise’s heart isn’t Rias-buchou or us, it’s Kiba.
I sighed as I said to the other two
“…Asia, Irina, we may have made a grave mistake. If we want to become more intimate with Ise, then we shouldn’t imitate Rias-buchou or Akeno-fukubuchou, we should copy Kiba instead.”
Although my words initially shocked those two, they eventually seemed to arrive at the truth as well.
“…Y-Yes. Kiba-kun has always been close to Ise-kun. Having natural conversations and contact isn’t pointless!”
“I-If we learn from Kiba-san about how to interact with Ise-san, then we can improve our relationships?”
In other words, this book is a realistic expression of the techniques for interacting with Ise that we didn’t know about. If we had found out about this sooner, it’s possible that our relationship with Ise would be closer. …Although it was somewhat regretful, it wasn’t too late since we had gotten hold of the book prior to our graduation.
I once again strongly expressed my thoughts to the two of them.
“Listen closely. After reading this book, aren’t we going to use the techniques that Kiba uses in it to get closer to Ise? What we need to do is approach Ise naturally like Kiba, rather than try to follow the methods of those two seniors!”
Just as the three of us held such thoughts and planned to continue reading—
“Is there something going on over there?”
Someone suddenly called out. As we turned back, we found the Student Council Vice President Shinra Tsubaki standing there. She had arrived at this corner of the school campus…was she using her lunch break to patrol the school? The Vice President’s glasses gleamed as she directed her gaze toward our book.
“…Is that a manga? That’s no good, you can’t bring such things to school.”
The Vice President frowned as she came over and picked up our book.
“Really, even if you are Rias-san’s peerage members, this is going too far…t-this is!?”
The Vice President was startled by the title of the book in her hands.
“—The new series that I couldn’t obtain! The first edition was sold out, and the date of the reprint hasn’t even been announced yet!”
She seemed dazzled and it was almost as though she had stumbled upon a piece of treasure.
While the three of us sat blankly in bewilderment, Vice President Shinra cleared her throat a few times before saying
“…I’m confiscating this. The Student Council must take books like this. I will speak about this later…right, how did you get this book?”
“I got it from a female classmate called Kiryuu…”
The Vice President nodded as she said ‘Kiryuu-san huh, I’ll remember that.’
“I will have a chat to Kiryuu-san. You girls should also return to the classroom before afternoon classes begin. Now, I’ll see you later.”
After saying that, the Vice President left. …The book got confiscated. I’ll have to apologise to Kiryuu later. After going through this trouble, I’ll have to tell her the reason and think of a way to return the book to her.
Later on, I talked to Ise and Kiba about the matter. Ise became infuriated as he said ‘That damned Kiryuu!’. Kiba simply exposed a wry smile…and it was then that Ise described how the book wasn’t true, rather, it was simply a kind of delusion. Hmm, a delusion huh. A delusional creation. But even so, whenever I see Ise and Kiba naturally get along with each other, it’s almost as if there’s a gender barrier that prevents females from encroaching. Perhaps I can’t become Ise’s true friend. But, that’s not a bad thing either. Because, when it comes to Ise, I want to—.
(Part 1 of 1) (5/11)
 Thin book: Doujinshi are fan-made works and are thus often thin compared to normal books. The term usually also implies that it is a book of erotic nature.