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.
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.
“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.
“Hey, watch it!” I rush over and lightly push her foot away with my own. “How dare you put your feet on my masterpieces!”
“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?!”
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.
“Impressive, isn’t it? Every time I look at it, I feel completely refreshed.”
“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.”
“Those are the manuscripts for all my future works!”
“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.”
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.”
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.”
One half of my lips curl into a smirk.
“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?”
“Light…?” Her arms fall behind to support her weight.
“Yes, yes. Clearly, someone like you would never have. I’ve decided that I—”
Did she just interrupt me with a laugh? Talk about rude.
“What’s so funny?!” I snap, towering over her.
“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.”
“I’m dead serious.”
“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!”
“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!”
“Wait, you’re serious about this?”
I glare at her with a nod.
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,
“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!”
“I’m not jealous!”
“You are! You totally are! That’s why you want to write a Light Novel! Of all things, a Light Novel! Bwahahahahaha!”
“Shut up! There’s nothing funny about this!”
“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?”
“Get it yourself.”
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.
“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.”
“Whatever you say~”
“And second of all, what’s so funny about writing a Light Novel?”
“Oh, you just don’t get it.”
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.
“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.”
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?!
… This is illegal.
“What the hell do you work as that you gotta read these?”
“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.
“You’re an impressionist artist?”
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.
“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.”
“Hold on. If you’ve already got a job, how in the world did you manage to get yourself evicted?”
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?”
“Beats me. Maybe 500 yen?”
“It’ll buy you a drink. I mean, it’s just a bunch of lines, so it makes sense that it’s cheap.”
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?”
“2000 yen, I’d wager? It looks like it takes more effort.”
She cackles to herself as she shakes her head. “And that’s where you’re wrong. It’s also 200 yen.”
“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.”
“Uh huh? And how long does it take to draw one frame?”
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?”
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?
“… You only get two off days in a month.”
She nods. “And all this for a monthly salary of 80,000 yen.”
“That’s even less than what I earn!”
She nods vigorously.
“Why don’t you just find a better job?”
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?”
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.
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.”
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.”
“I didn’t take you for an otaku.”
“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…”
She takes off her accessories one by one starting from the rings. During that time, I take the chance to continue pressing her.
“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.”
“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.”
“So even an industry like that would—”
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.
“What do you think you’re doing?”
“Changing my clothes.”
“I can see that. You do realize that I’m a guy, right?”
“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.”
“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.”
I use my thumb direct her toward the door behind me. “The toilet?”
“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.”
“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?”
“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.”
“As if I’d want to do anything crazy with someone like you.”
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.”
“And why’s that?”
“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.”
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.
“Don’t act so chummy with me.”