Chapter 8:

Anyone Can Be Reliable Beta Readers!

Anyone Can Write A Light Novel!

Tsukishima and I have never slept together before. I’m sorry, that didn’t come out right.

What I mean is, our sleeping hours have never aligned. I sleep during the hot afternoons and she sleeps during the night. And when she’s asleep, I’m busy at work. By the time I returned, she was already awake, prepping breakfast or getting changed. Suffice to say, outside that one time at the convenience store, I have never seen her asleep before.

I now wish it stayed that way.

I never had to watch her sleep till I got an off day. She snores like a trumpeter announcing a parade. Drool keeps leaking down her lips. Her shirt rides up up to her chest, just enough to inform me she’s going commando. And her hand scratches at her exposed belly like an uncivilized monkey.

Her noise is completely distracting. I end up putting on earphones and cranking some orchestral music to the max to brave through it. I prefer writing in silence, but desperate times call for desperate measures. A ten hour long fantasy playlist is left running as I boot up the empty document.

From doing my homework, I know that fantasy novels are what’s really making the rounds these days. That will have to be my genre of choice. The trend appears to be having a regular Japanese person be reincarnated into a fantasy world, and then become strong there while collecting women. The core of it seems to lie in the power fantasy. I understand wanting to write one and watch a character to amazing things, it’s the foundation of literature, but I can’t agree with the method chosen.

I don’t believe in self-insertion as an immersing technique. A character should be relatable based solely on their characterization and story. Leaving it empty so the reader can ride in the story’s coattails is cheap. Anyone who enjoys that can’t call themselves a reader.

I notice that a lot of these tend to use ‘levels’ or ‘stats’ as their defining magic system. It looks to be inspired from video games, none of which I have ever played. That must be why the storytelling feels similar. A video game tends to leave the protagonist silent so the player can immerse themselves into it. Aiming to keep the hero barebones to emulate that is an amateur’s mistake. Don’t use video games as a hallmark of good storytelling kids, it’ll rot your brain.

That’s why I’ll tell the story of Alexander. A lone mercenary turned into a knight, who quickly became the strongest warrior on the battlefield. At the start of the story, his name is feared throughout the battlefield. They say he was worth a thousand men. The only correct order to be given when his cavalry arrives is to retreat. Despite that reputation, the Alexander outside the battle is a kindhearted man who treasures his allies dearly.

The conflict arises when the warlord who knighted and raised him, Darwyn, begins to show signs of corruption as he aspires for the throne. Alexander has no choice but to choose between his personal and chivalrous values as he has to make a choice between morality and loyalty. Meanwhile, the antagonists make their move against Darwyn’s faction.

First are the three sworn brothers. I’ll model them after the three musketeers. They’re commoners by birth, but show true loyalty to the throne and wish to stop Darwyn out of honour. They could be said to be the true underdog, and can be seen as heroes of the story, under a different perspective. The second is Charles, an aristocrat who manipulates everyone around him to get his way. His methods are questionable and heartless, but he truly wishes to build a great kingdom, which is why he opposes Darwyn who selfishly wants power.

In the first volume, I want to make Alexander succeed in helping Darwyn take the throne. Then I’ll end the volume with Darwyn’s reign of terror as Alexander comes to a realization that his own personal morality could not accept the result that he had fought for.

It should be clear that the story has its roots from the closing years of the Han Dynasty, with Lu Bu as its focal character. I don’t plan to copy it wholesale, but the concepts and political structure should breed familiarity among readers. That book’s a classic, after all. What I want is to craft a tale of differing perspectives and ideologies. And I want to tie it all to the idea that although Alexander has all the strength in the world, that strength would not have worth if he lacks governing prowess.

As I draw the outline of the story, I also come to realize I don’t have any space to put a female character in here. The game of politics that’s being played is between men of vision, and it’s hard to justify intertwining a woman into this web when they’re all extremely rational and suspicious. I could make a case for the queen, but her young son should be more important because he’s the one who will ascend the throne prematurely. If I follow my inspiration, Lu Bu fell in love with one of Dong Zhuo’s many brides, Diaochan, which led to his betrayal and the fall of their faction.

Even if I wanted to add a character like Diaochan into this story, it’s a bit too early for that. Darwyn had yet to begin his reign of terror at this point in the story, so he wouldn’t be able to coerce beautiful women into marrying him. I also don’t know what it says about Alexander if all it took was one girl to make him sway his beliefs, so I might play it another way.

I’ll just have to gamble on my superior talents. By vividly describing this world and intricately crafting the structures that govern it, I’m sure whoever reads it would get sucked into the fantasy that I’ve composed.

When my brain is operating at full capacity, I can feel my fingers flowing like butter through oil. It wasn’t an overnight effort; I would often type until my drowsiness overtakes me and find myself awake in the evening. Since I knew each beat that it would take, I never paused even once when I opened that document. At times, I would blabber about what I’m writing to Tsukishima who nods despondently. By the time I was typing the final chapter, two weeks had come and gone.

“And so Alexander knew, he had made a grave mistake.”

Those final lines fill me with a joy unlike any other. After toiling away at my laptop for so long, I could finally call this a done deal. With the document in a thumbdrive, I head to a stationary shop to print three copies. One for my personal use which I’ll let Tsukishima have, one to give Takahara, and one for Sawamura Aki’s publisher.

I can’t wait to watch them reel in shock at the talent they’ve been missing out on all their lives.


500 yen, 500 yen. Yup, the prices are correct. Pasting price tags and restocking the shelves falls under the poor sap who gets stuck with the midnight shift. It’s not difficult; you just go to the back, grab the boxes, bring it to the front then finally plop it down while tagging them. It’s a mindless job for zombies. But it’s that very property that gives me all the brain cells I need to envision the volumes that will be written once the company accepts my manuscript.

I feel my pulse racing as I eye the ticking clock. The hours were shifting to five, which is precisely when Takahara usually arrives. The manuscript was handed to him a week ago. I told him it belonged to a friend who had an interest in Light Novels. If I told him it was me, it would’ve swayed his judgment regarding the work. Last thing I’d need is a biased opinion. One week should be enough to read the whole thing, regardless of their reading comprehension.

My heart races from hearing the digital beeps of the doorbell. The man of the hour unassumingly arrives, wearing another one of those embarrassing anime girl T-shirts. I stand on my feet and straighten my back to peer over the shelves as if I don’t know it was him. It’s hard to tell how inspired or awed people regarding your work from a physical view. That’s why, as soon as we exchanged our greetings, I follow up with,

“By the way.” I quickly divert the topic to most important matter at hand. “How far are you in that manuscript my friend wrote?”

It took him two whole seconds to process my question. He scratches at his greasy hair, a nervous tick of sorts, as he softly laughs, “Ahaha, that thing. Yeah, I threw it away.”

I’ll kill him.

“I mean, like…” He bites his lip and squints his beady eyes. “It was really boring. I could barely get through the first chapter, so then I started skimming through and get this! There weren’t any girls in that story!”

How should I do it? Tie him up then lock him in the freezer?

“And the main character was what? Darywn, I think? They keep mentioning him over and over. He was kind of a terrible person. I can’t self-insert into a megalomaniac like him. I think it’s important for me to relate to the main character to really appreciate a work.”

There’s a pair of scissors sold with the writing utensils. I could jam it into his mouth and snip off his tongue.

“There was sooooo much politics! I mean, I don’t read Light Novels just to watch some old men discuss alliances and territories! It’s so boring! It’s like watching the news! They just went on and on and on, I just skipped over those chapters.”

The supply of beer came in last evening. A box of that could double as a good bludgeoning weapon.

“I think that the most important aspect of a Light Novel is to have lots of interesting girls. I couldn’t care less about the plot as long as I get to experience that feeling of being loved by a 2D girl unlike any of these normie women.”

You know what, my fist will do. I’ll just beat him over the head till he finally wakes up.


“Huh what?

He grins at me in ignorance. “You were spacing out just now. Did you catch what I said?”

“Uh yeah, uh…” I loosen my tightened fist and fake a neutral face. “I’ll pass it on to my friend. But if you didn’t like it, you should’ve handed it back to me.”

He starts scratching at his cheek. “I didn’t have any space in my apartment. It’s just a printout, I’m sure it didn’t cost much. But anyway, I think your friend needs ten years before he’s ready to publish.”

I’ll shove my foot in your butt for ten years, you tasteless miscreant. I graciously handed to you a gift from my miracle hands, and you dared to throw it into the garbage? And you even have the gall to lecture me about how it’s lesser than all the garbage you’re into? If it weren’t for the laws of this land, I would have your head.

My finger points to the clock as I step away. “My shift is almost up, so let me settle everything before you take over.”

I stock up the last two shelves before punching in my hours. The whole while, I avoid looking directly at Takahara for fear that my bloodlust would show. However, I’d give him a death stare if I caught his face in any reflective surface. Once I’m out of the striped uniform, I leave the store and head home. If that stupid otaku came here in a car, I would’ve smashed his windows on the way out. Too bad he blew it all on figurines.

The ride home did nothing the fire inside me. I go through the city at a faster speed than usual and take as many detours as possible to lengthen the journey. There isn’t much traffic in the wee hours of the morning. The moment I reach home, I park my bike and throw my helmet on the seat. Each step up the rusty metal steps leave a loud clank that surely wake the neighbors, but I don’t care. As soon as I unlock the door, I call out,



She flails around as she slouches against the coffee table. My manuscript rests beside her file of animation frames. As she sits up, her unkempt hair falls over her face like ruffled strings. With half-open eyes and dry saliva lining her chin, she barks,


“Did you read the manuscript I gave you?”

“You didn’t have to shout at me…!” She lethargically lowers her head to the papers. “Yeah, I read it. But I haven’t finished it.”

“I gave you a week!”

“I’m a busy person, okay?! And well, I mean…” Her head falls lower and lower till her forehead presses against the table. “It was really boring. I had no idea what anyone was talking about. Bla bla bla, this kingdom, that sovereign, that army, these terms and conditions… They just went on and on…”

“Well, I’m sorry that the story’s too smart for you!”

“Ryuji… You said the main character is Alexander, right?” She lifts her head with furrowed brows and flicks open the manuscript with a finger pointed at a certain sentence. “He doesn’t get any dialogue until chapter three! I don’t care if this is some genius level writing, I think the first thing you should do in any story is introduce the lead!”

“He’s supposed to an action before words type of person! Of course he wouldn’t say anything until he has to! That very tendency is tied to the themes I want to convey in this book!”

She grimaces, her sore eyes looking more awake by the second. “Then why is it in the first chapter, you go on a four paragraph tangent about the wine this Darwyn guy drinks?! You drone on and on about how it’s processed, who owns it, how it’s transported… No one cares!”

“If you don’t pay attention to that wine, you’ll fail to understand Charles’ assassination attempt on Darwyn by slipping into that very wine industry and planting poison into the brew!”

“Charles, Darwyn, Charles, Darwyn, it’s like you wanted them to be the main character. You focus on everyone other than Alexander so much, I doubt anyone could tell he’s supposed to be the protagonist. And…” She flicks her wrist, giving the papers a bit of a shake. “Your working title is Rosaria. Isn’t that a band? Who is this Rosaria supposed to be? She never shows up!”

“It’ll make sense as it goes!” My anger which was at a boiling point spills over, and now my head feels calmer. “You know what? Maybe I shouldn’t have bothered asking you and Takahara’s opinions. What would otaku know about good storytelling?”

“Hahhh?” She tosses the manuscript aside and falls back on the tabletop. “Sheesh, if you were going to end up on that conclusion, why’d you bother asking us in the first place?”

I take my seat on the floor across the room, crossing my legs. “I needed to gauge how possible it was to sway otaku towards a higher form of literature. But judging from you and Takahara’s responses, I can conclude that once an otaku, always an otaku. That’s no problem. I’ll just aim my book toward everyone else.”

With trembling shoulders, she pushes herself up and continues sketching at the papers. “Trying to target a demographic outside of the main one is a sure path to failure… But you’re welcome to try.” A loud, ear-shattering yawn escapes her mouth. ”If you don’t care about what I think, don’t ask me to read. I’ve got a lot on my hands.”

My mind races at the thought of throwing her out without mercy. It would be so easy if she didn’t have anything on me. Maybe if I get back with Mana as soon as I can, I won’t have to worry about whatever Tsukishima tells her. But before I do that, I need to get this book published. Only then can I have the confidence to see her face to face and get back together.

As I visualize my plan of action, my phone rings. Normally, it’d be the bank or some insurance company. But this time, this time, the God of Literature smiles upon me. The name of the sender fills my brain with dopamine. It was a rush that I hadn’t felt since the last time I smoked a cigarette.

Kariya Publishing Company. The company Sawamura Aki writes for replied to me within a week.