Chapter 4:

Anyone Can Be An Animator!

Anyone Can Write A Light Novel!

My laughter only died down by the time I unlocked the door. Tsukishima frantically explained that we were old friends from school. Though I don’t quite agree, it was a better alternative than the conclusion the landlord drew. I’d be in hot water if she thought I was behind on rent because I’ve been splurging it on those types of services.Bookmark here

Tsukishima pouts the whole way up those creaky metal stairs. When I pushed the door open, she rushes ahead of me, sets her luggage aside at a corner and threw herself on the floor.Bookmark here

“Ahhhhhhhhhhh, finally!” She howls, stretching all four limbs as far as they went. “Space! I’m sick of sleeping at weird places. Man, it feels good to put my hands and legs wherever I want!” Her foot presses against a manuscript I set against the wall. Bookmark here

“Hey, watch it!” I rush over and lightly push her foot away with my own. “How dare you put your feet on my masterpieces!”Bookmark here

“Chill out, I didn’t do it on purpose.” She has a disgruntled face as she rolls the other direction. When she sees my shelf, she rolls onto her feet, exclaiming, “What the hell is that?!”Bookmark here

I smirk. For I know her feeble mind could not comprehend the glory of my shelf. Every section of it is stuffed to the brim with books of varying sizes. There were so many in fact that I made use of every cubic volume of space I could slot in. Resultantly, the books look like a stained glass painting at a chateau. And at the bottom, I pile manuscript upon manuscript upon manuscript that those sections are bursting with papers. I ended up running out of space so I piled the additional manuscripts against the walls.Bookmark here

“Impressive, isn’t it? Every time I look at it, I feel completely refreshed.”Bookmark here

“You’re a hoarder.” She replies, clearly unable to comprehend the beauty of my collection. “You could stand to sell half of these and move to a better apartment. And what’s with these stacks of paper? It’s so wordy.”Bookmark here

“Those are the manuscripts for all my future works!”Bookmark here

“Manuscripts—” She does a double take. “You could fit fifty dictionaries in these things!” She takes one and flicks through the pages rapidly. “It’s just words, words and more words! How do you write so much and not get published? It’s more impressive that you’ve somehow failed rather than anything.”Bookmark here

I point at her with a menacing tone of voice. “Hey, I haven’t failed. I’m still trying. The only point where I ‘failed’ is where I give up on publishing. And I won’t ever give up on becoming a novelist.”Bookmark here

Her mouth gapes in exasperation. “You do know that—” She grits her teeth and pinches the bridge of her nose. “Ugh, never mind. What’s your grand master plan for getting in now? You’ve had ten years to figure it out.”Bookmark here

One half of my lips curl into a smirk.Bookmark here

“Hm hm hm…” I burst out laughing before her. Her twitching eye tells me how little she truly understands the genius of my plan. “Do you know about these things called Light Novels?”Bookmark here

“Light…?” Her arms fall behind to support her weight. Bookmark here

“Yes, yes. Clearly, someone like you would never have. I’ve decided that I—”Bookmark here

“Bwahahahahahahahahahha!”Bookmark here

Did she just interrupt me with a laugh? Talk about rude.Bookmark here

“What’s so funny?!” I snap, towering over her.Bookmark here

“Ahahaha! My sides… My sides hurt…! Light Novels of all things!” She takes a deep breath as her laughter dies down. “That was a good joke. Phew.”Bookmark here

“I’m dead serious.”Bookmark here

“Yeah, right. Someone who keeps going on and on about the intricacies of story-writing or whatever deciding to go into Light Novels? You’re actually a pretty funny guy!”Bookmark here

“Listen here. That little git Sawamura Aki made bank through Light Novels and I’m not gonna stand for it! That guy who sat by his lonesome reading manga doesn’t deserve to get one over me! So I’m gonna get in his company and take everything from him!”Bookmark here

“Wait, you’re serious about this?”Bookmark here

I glare at her with a nod.Bookmark here


She falls to the floor and begins rolling on the floor. My neighbor can be heard telling us to shut up from the walls. I try to explain, but Tsukishima’s laughter cuts me off every time. She, holding her belly, points at me and says,Bookmark here

“I can’t believe it! Ahahahahahaha! You’re actually jealous! Jealous of Aki of all people! Oh my God! I can’t believe this is actually happening!”Bookmark here

“I’m not jealous!”Bookmark here

“You are! You totally are! That’s why you want to write a Light Novel! Of all things, a Light Novel! Bwahahahahaha!”Bookmark here

“Shut up! There’s nothing funny about this!”Bookmark here

“What are you talking about?! This is the best! Ahahahaa… Hah…” She finally runs out of breath. “Phew… Ahhh… Could you get me some water?”Bookmark here

“Get it yourself.”Bookmark here

“Where?”Bookmark here

My finger points her to the jug between the tap and stove. She stands up to take one of the plastic cups in the basin and pours herself a drink. And although she had laughed her heart out, I could still see her close to spitting out the water she drank.Bookmark here

“Can I talk now?” I ask, arms and legs crossed. When she flails her hand at me, I take the signal and continue, “First of all, I am not jealous. I just know that I can do way better than him, and that’s why I want to do the exact thing he did and do it better.”Bookmark here

“Whatever you say~”Bookmark here

“And second of all, what’s so funny about writing a Light Novel?”Bookmark here

“Oh, you just don’t get it.” Bookmark here

She reaches for her luggage and zips it open. After digging through for a good moment, she takes out four books from inside and tosses it on the coffee table. Elbows against the wooden top, her cheeks fall onto her palm. Bookmark here

“It’s not absolutely necessary, but my work has me get these to help with what I do. And let me tell you, hoo whee, none of us enjoy it. All of my colleagues pass up on reading these things unless they really have to. It’s gotten to the point we use these as doorstoppers.”Bookmark here

I slide the books towards me and glance at the covers. All of them have girls on the cover. One of them in particular looks dangerously underage and is drawn at a very peculiar angle. And just like the ones I saw at the bookshop, their titles are crazy long. Like, the underage one is called, I Brought Home A Kindergartener And Now She Wants To Be My Wife?!Bookmark here

… This is illegal.Bookmark here

“Tsukishima.”Bookmark here

“What?”Bookmark here

“What the hell do you work as that you gotta read these?”Bookmark here

“I said, I don’t have to read them, but it’s supposed to help…“ She burrows through her luggage once more and takes out a folder this time. “This is what my work’s about.” She holds the folder against her chest and flips it open, revealing to me a white, bordered paper with squiggly lines.Bookmark here

“You’re an impressionist artist?”Bookmark here

An incomprehensible sound escapes her throat. She looks over the folder, the sides of her mouth stretching as far downwards as possible, as she begins turning the pages repeatedly. The squiggly lines move and form a scene of sorts, where a detailed drawing of a girl comes into frame.Bookmark here

“I’m an animator.” She explains as she flips to a blank page. “Those books over there are titles my studio is adapting. All four of them are set to air next season…” She bites her lips to muffle a grumble. “So I’ve got my hands busy. Don’t have time to go looking for another apartment.”Bookmark here

“Hold on. If you’ve already got a job, how in the world did you manage to get yourself evicted?”Bookmark here

The color in her eyes starts to fade away. “Oh, Ryuji, you poor child. You really don’t know anything.” She flips over to the first page with the squiggly lines. “This frame here. Do you know how much I earn for this?”Bookmark here

“Beats me. Maybe 500 yen?”Bookmark here

“200 yen.”Bookmark here

“It’ll buy you a drink. I mean, it’s just a bunch of lines, so it makes sense that it’s cheap.”Bookmark here

She nods. Then, she flicks over to the page with the drawing of the girl. “Now this one. It pays attention to anatomy, character design, perspective and all the like. How much do you think this is worth?”Bookmark here

“2000 yen, I’d wager? It looks like it takes more effort.”Bookmark here

She cackles to herself as she shakes her head. “And that’s where you’re wrong. It’s also 200 yen.”Bookmark here

“What?!”Bookmark here

“Oh yes, unlike retail workers like you, I don’t get paid by the hour, I get paid by the frame. Doesn’t matter how much effort I have to put into the frame itself, it’ll earn me the same amount.” Her pupils lose focus and her carefree persona slips away into an empty husk. “If I want to get through the month, I have to draw at least 400 frames of animation. Any redraws will add to that pile with no pay.”Bookmark here

“Uh huh? And how long does it take to draw one frame?”Bookmark here

She has a wry smile, with dull eyes not unlike a soldier who has returned from war. “This frame with the girl here? Maybe an hour. And most of the frames I draw are like this. So it’s safe to assume I spend roughly 500 hours a month drawing to make ends meet. How much free time do you think that gives me?”Bookmark here

I quickly do the math in my head. 24 hours a day, and 31 days in a month would equate to… 744 hours a month. And if I factor in the daily 6 hours of sleep anyone would need, then it’d be… 186 hours per month. So, subtract 186 from 744… I’d get… 558 hours per month. So she’d technically have 558 hours to be awake but she needs 500 hours to work?Bookmark here

“… You only get two off days in a month.”Bookmark here

She nods. “And all this for a monthly salary of 80,000 yen.”Bookmark here

“That’s even less than what I earn!”Bookmark here

She nods vigorously. Bookmark here

“Why don’t you just find a better job?”Bookmark here

She shoots a glare at me. With a dry voice, she questions back, “Why don’t you just give up on being a novelist? Least these frames earn me something.” Her ringed fingers take aim at my piles of manuscripts. “How much time did it take all these years for you to pen those stacks and how much did you make out of it?”Bookmark here

That question was like an arrow piercing me in the heart. I can feel my chest aching. Fire was crawling up my throat as I held myself from channeling my anger into a fist and slamming it on the table. I don’t have the cash to get a new one.Bookmark here

As my heartbeats slow, I take a deep breath. “It’s not something you’d understand. Literature has been my passion even before I started schooling. That’s why I have to keep pursuing it, even if it hasn’t bore fruit.”Bookmark here

Her eyelids close upon her hazel eyes as she piles her papers together and straightens the pile by tapping it against the table. “On the contrary, I understand it more than anyone. The otaku industry is driven by passion more than anything.”Bookmark here

“I didn’t take you for an otaku.”Bookmark here

“I’m not. I just enjoy drawing. Always have.” She zips down another compartment from her luggage and takes out several drawing utensils. “It’s why I joined the Art Club while you and Mana were busy making kissy faces at the Literature Club. Anyway, it’s about time to get to work…”Bookmark here

She takes off her accessories one by one starting from the rings. During that time, I take the chance to continue pressing her.Bookmark here

“I don’t know, Tsukishima. From how you act and how you dress, you don’t give off the ‘artsy fartsy’ vibe, let alone liking something on the geeky side. Didn’t really expect you to be an animator of all things.”Bookmark here

“What, you think all animators are glasses-wearing nerds? You’re not far off, but you’re also stereotyping.” She unpins her earrings and gathers all her accessories to one corner of the table. “Anime also changes with the times. If we don’t pay attention to current trends, all our characters would be wearing bellbottom jeans. So there are a lot of us who keep up with fashion.”Bookmark here

“So even an industry like that would—”Bookmark here

She pulls her one-piece off and undresses right in front of me. My mouth gapes open as I see her bare cleavage that’s hidden only by a black rose-patterned bra. Though her figure is decent, I could see her ribcage protruding right above her stomach. When her sweater slips through the top of her head, she tosses it aside and raises an eyebrow at me. She didn’t blush, not even a bit. Her face was completely neutral. Her eyebrows didn’t even incline to show the slightest bit of anger.Bookmark here

“Tsukishima.”Bookmark here

“What?”Bookmark here

“What do you think you’re doing?”Bookmark here

“Changing my clothes.”Bookmark here

“I can see that. You do realize that I’m a guy, right?”Bookmark here

“Yeah. So?”Bookmark here

“You’re not my type, but that doesn’t mean I’m not going to look if you’re going to expose yourself right in front of me.”Bookmark here

“Enjoy the view then.” Her response is half-hearted. She digs into her luggage to pull out a plain white t-shirt and a tracksuit. “If you didn’t live in a crummy one-room apartment, I’d go change in another room.”Bookmark here

I use my thumb direct her toward the door behind me. “The toilet?”Bookmark here

“I don’t wanna get my clothes wet.” She stands up and now I can see her panties which match the pattern of her bra. She takes the trousers and slips it on, one foot at a time. “Why’re you the one complaining? You’re the one getting serviced here.”Bookmark here

“It’s just…” I click my tongue and tighten my eyelids. “Aren’t you even the teeniest bit embarrassed to be doing that in front of a guy?”Bookmark here

“I would be, if I liked you. But I don’t.” She swipes the t-shirt and fits her head into it. “So what you think doesn’t really matter to me. And if you try anything stupid, I’ll just tell Mana. You wouldn’t want that.”Bookmark here

“As if I’d want to do anything crazy with someone like you.”Bookmark here

Her hands push through the sleeves, and then she gives her collar a light tug. “Right? I keep up with lots of people, but I never bothered asking to crash with any of them. Of all people, I decided to crash with you.” Bookmark here

“And why’s that?”Bookmark here

“The only people I’ll ever trust are people I have leverage over.” She dons her tracksuit then flashes me a peace sign. “So let’s get along, Ryuji.”Bookmark here

My weight falls on the left half of my body. She’s beaming at me in a friendly manner, but I don’t feel any intent on her part to get along with me. We were barely acquainted and now for some reason, I have to live with this woman who sees me as nothing more than easy lodgings. I know that I would never get along with someone like her, but I can sense that she feels the same. In a way, the lack of attraction between us might make the current arrangement easier to adapt to.Bookmark here

“Don’t act so chummy with me.”Bookmark here

You can resume reading from this paragraph.