TLNC Chapter 14- Kakuhido


I sighed as I took in the room I was to inhabit for now. It looked like your average luxury hotel room. There was beer in the fridge, so I drank some directly from the bottle. I was not given a limit for how long I could stay on the island but now I wasn’t very sure if that was out of kindness.

On a nightstand next to the bed was a wired rotary telephone and a list of numbers to dial in, such as those for the hotel lobby or the various laboratories on the island. I was tempted to call the island’s private security but then again I’d already been ridiculed enough for getting knocked out by Dr Teufel. My luggage had already been brought here, it seemed like they had handled it with more care than they had handled me.

The following morning I knocked on Makoto’s door to ask if she knew about last night’s delinquent who seemed to know her but she appeared to have gone to work at the laboratory already. I was running low on energy. The last nourishment to touch my lips was the MAX Coffee from a vending machine yesterday. I landed down at the Cafeteria in the lift which Izumi had intimated I use. I had arrived right at the time they were serving breakfast when I noticed something strange: All of the female servers were dressed up as maids…

“Welcome to The Touchdown Cafe Master! Today’s Special is…”

A bright and cheerful face appeared out of the periphery. It was Lucia, the girl with the brown hair and ponytail whom I had met at the aircraft hanger.

I ordered “the special,” an over-priced “Aberdeen Angus smashed beef burger” and a can of beer. I knew it was early but I felt like I needed it. It was one of those days when MAX Coffee wasn’t enough.

I briefly considered that yesterday was a hallucination and that maybe I had been sent to the wrong island after I lost consciousness on the plane… Since when was I hallucinating yesterday? Did they spike my MAX Coffee with some experimental psychoactive substance? That was not something out of the realm of possibility given this place’s nature. Was the man with Ashen Blond hair I fought off last night even real, my chest still hurt but maybe I hurt it myself in delirium…

I came back to my senses when I noticed two familiar faces looking at me, one with bemusement and one with seething anger. In any case, it didn’t look like I was going to be able to eat my sizzlingly hot beef burger while ruminating on the Room-101/MKULTRA-type treatment which I might have been unknowingly subjected to… Maybe meeting them wasn’t a bad thing. Besides I had to do my job.

“So are you going to tell him or shall I?” Professor Stella asked her companion.

“Hmph, it’s not my fault that that man was harassing Dr Makoto. You should have kept an eye on your laboratory’s staff.” Dr. Teufel replied.

Prof Stella shrugged her shoulders as if to say, “That’s not my job,” and then drank her 500ml Dr Pepper bottle in one go.

I couldn’t ignore them after they looked at me like they wanted to tell me something, especially not with that casual mention of Makoto being harassed, in any case, my journalist senses were tingling, so I approached the table at which Desire’s Director, the genius girl with a violent temper, and the head of the Global Gadgets Laboratory (GGL), the aggressive professor of indeterminate age, were seated.

“I did not expect the director to have such strange tastes.”

I honestly stated my opinion, glancing around the bustling maid cafe until I met Dr. Teufel’s frowning face. Yes, it didn’t seem like I was dreaming… I wouldn’t be seeing her face if I was dreaming. This was a fake maid cafe, if it was real then there wouldn’t have been any liquor for sale. That’s basic common sense.

“Oh, pardon me McDougal, if that is your real name, Arthur, please take a seat. There is something I should inform you about.”

I listened to my former assailant’s request, placed my food tray on the table and took a seat facing the two. I was hoping for an apology from either of them but I knew that one was not forthcoming, so would you even call it hoping? I was supposed to make a living with words but words had failed me when dealing with this girl.

“It’s not like I am sorry or anything, but it’s my responsibility. Makoto Izumi has decided not to press charges… So I transferred Anderson out. He should be in the hands of the authorities right now. An emergency flight like that is not cheap you know? Of course, what happened was not my fault or anything. This is what happens when people can’t see 2D for 3D. No maybe, it was my fault for letting a member of the militant wing of the Kakuhido slip into the research facility secretly… Then again it was your presence that distracted me so maybe it was your fault equally as well McDougal.”

As a journalist, I was used to listening to non-apologies which devolved into nothing or turned into accusations but this was taking it too far. What the hell was she talking about? I must have made a face that made my confusion clear, actual confusion, not that which is faked by TV news hosts, which as a newspaper reporter I was unfortunately acquainted with. Professor Stella decided to fill me in on the details.

“You made all those threats to me yesterday, but you don’t even know what the Kakuhido is?”

Prof Stella picked up a chip with her fork, dipped it in sauce, and ate it aggressively in one bite.

“The man who assaulted you last night, Anderson Cooper, was a member of a faux-neo-Marxist group called the Kakumeiteki Himote Doumei (Revolutionary League of Men Unpopular with Women) also known as the “Kakuhido”.”

Ignoring my hunger and the absurdity of the statement I had just heard, I indulged in her line of talk in half-mocking earnestness.

“And what would this Kakuhido have against me? It couldn’t be the fact that I have a girlfriend, right?” A pause ensued. Stella suddenly leaned forward and looked at me with a serious face. “It… couldn’t be right!?”

“Haha of course not. You fell for it so easily. Hey, is this guy really a journalist?”

Dr. Teufel seemed to be annoyed on my behalf, or maybe she just couldn’t stand her Yankee subordinate. Professor Stella pointed at me with her fork.

“Anyway things could have gone a lot worse. Did you know Anderson was equipped with a gun? But I guess he thought you were too much of a wimp to take him on. How did you knock him out anyway? Unless you smuggled some kind of weapon too? Like maybe brass knuckles? I just don’t see it happening in my mind in a fair fight, you know.”

“Well, excuse me, Professor Stella. I am still here and that man is going to prison if not worse, that’s good enough for me.”

I poured some larger beer down my throat to bring some life back into my system and continued.

“Director Teufel is what the professor said about the Kakuhido all a lie? If there was something wrong, and if this man was harassing Makoto for information, I just don’t see why Makoto would not ask for my help. Actually, where is Izumi right now?”

Makoto was a rather taciturn girl but I didn’t see her as the type to stay silent in such a case as this. In fact, the way that I had met her was when she helped me catch a chikan on a train for a report. Should I feel a little betrayed that I wasn’t depended on, or was there some other reason? The director had grasped my doubts.

“Izumi is a professional so she’s already working her shift at the laboratory. She’s perfectly fine. It’s just a pity I couldn’t convince her to be a part-time maid at the cafe too…. At any rate, she had made a complaint about Anderson through the official channels but that was too slow. Makoto should have just told me or Stella that something was wrong with that man. The reason why she didn’t tell you anything was because you are an outsider and you are not supposed to know anything without my permission. So you shouldn’t worry about that either. By the way, she didn’t want you to use the lift closer to your room because that man used to take that lift too. She wanted me to tell you if I met you first.”

Lucia arrived, all smiles, to take our plates and cutlery. She accidentally dropped a fork from her tray and then some salt while trying to pick up the fork, causing her face to dramatically turn from a smile to an apologetic shade of red all in an instant. Although I didn’t think her experience as a meido would look good on her resume for future avionics-related employment, I had to admit she looked cute. Her klutzy, youthful mannerisms got an SS rank, so at least for that alone, the director got some points as a master. Although I did hope Lucia wasn’t so clumsy while doing maintenance on the jet that would take me off this island though. A cute”teehee” wouldn’t quite cut it then when I am blown into pieces and scattered across the sea in a mid-air explosion.

Dr Teufel stood up firmly from her seat, looked at the time on her pocket watch and smiled warmly.

“It’s time for me to open up shop, so you take care of the rest.”

“Wait, you are dumping him on me to go work on that dump?”

“It’s not a dump. Room 101 is an essential relaxation facility on this island.”

Teufel stuck out her tongue at Stella as she turned around.

I took a bite off of my over-priced stale beef burger. I wanted to hear directly from Makoto that everything was fine but I couldn’t let this thread go. Maybe Dr Arnold Teufel’s words to meet him at Room 101 had some meaning.

Professor Stella was also about to leave when she placed a hand on my shoulder.

“Hey boy, do you want a scoop? Of course, you do! Then get on my ride. I’ll take you to Room 101.”

Before I gave her my assent to take me to this dubiously named venue I needed to make clear to her that I was not keen on her driving.

“Can’t we just walk there? It can’t be that far away.”

“Just shut up and follow me, alright!?”

“Alright then, can’t I drive at least?”

She ignored my request for a moment, as she walked ahead, but then hastily turned back and replied,

“You are ten years too early to even think of going out with me!”

This time it was my turn to ignore her non-sequitur and walk past her towards her vintage jeep with a three-winged angel girl on its bonnet. Was the only man who was allowed to be in the driving seat, while she was on, her boyfriend? What kind of an absurd rule is that?

I decided not to finish my meal in case I threw up because of her driving so I threw the over-priced Angus Burger in a beeping e-bin. As I got on the jeep I caught a peek of Lucia, at the entrance to the “Touchdown Cafe”, now back in her mechanic’s blue overalls waving at me from a distance. It was rather soothing so I waved back at her but then Stella violently accelerated making me slam back into the seat’s backrest. I hurriedly fastened my seatbelt.

“Should you really be flirting with other girls when you have got Makoto? You were flirting with Teufel back there too.”

“If you call that flirting then you must be very lonely here.”

“Did you say something!?”

Professor Stella looked at me with double sanpaku eyes.

“Nothing! Quickly, look ahead! Turn right! Or you will kill that man!”

“Rot him! What did you say?”

“I said you are beautiful, okay?”

I tried to refrain from angering someone who already lacked proficiency in driving any further but to no avail. She avoided the man in a lab coat only by a few inches and sped up as fast as this jeep could go. She looked straight as if to hide something on her face, I guess my lie was not convincing. We were going at a speed of about 60kmph on a street which looked like it was made for 25kmph. This time the road was mostly straight but she drove frightfully fast on this open-roof jeep, honking her horn at unfortunate pedestrians. This brought me back memories of reporting in the aftermath of the Fifth Indo-Pakistani nuclear war. I hoped that those memories that flashed in my mind wouldn’t be the last. She’d fit right in on the roads of South Asia or on a narrow English provincial road where people under the influence of various substances drove at twice the speed limit. The only upside to this reckless driving is that our journey only lasted for five minutes, less than half of what it should have. Was it worth it? No.

After the maid cafe, I should not have been surprised at what I saw. Actually, I was starting to believe that nobody actually did any research at all with all these distractions. Now if it turned out that the whole Desire Research Institute Complex was a farce to siphon corporatocratic money, then that would be quite the story. Still, I shouldn’t let my journalistic imagination get the best of me.

As we passed a new-looking motel-like neon sign read:” MiniLove: Local Akiba-kei Otaku Store.” 500m away was our destination.

The building looked like a very decrepit “commercial centre,” honestly, it looked like it was at least twenty years old, or twice as old as the artificial island that it sat on. These commercial buildings crammed with tiny shops were a lot more common when I was growing up but most had been banned because it was competition against the large centralised online vendors. Well, the official story was that they created unnecessary traffic, facilitated non-identifiable, non-traceable electronics/data purchases and made convenient targets for terrorists – but having had to weave these false narratives myself when faced with editorial censorship, I knew there wasn’t any truth to them. The red-brick structure had clearly not been maintained well, unlike the rest of the island’s buildings. It was five stories tall, not including the barely-lit, nearly deserted underground parking lot where Prof Stella parked her jeep next to a Black Mitsubishi Pajero iO SUV.

Both Stella and I had to use our ID cards to open the gate to the staircase leading up from the underground parking lot. If the intention was to replicate the feeling of being at one of these electronics bazaars of yesteryear then tying our purchases to an ID was a reason to deduct some points. And yet I had to admit that this was a good place for shopping, you could find anything you wanted. There were shoe marts, bookstores, clothing stores, mobile phones and accessories being sold… All were closely packed together. I noticed that we were following the path which some stickers on the walls of a chibi three-winged angel girl pointed us towards.

“I thought that you couldn’t use mobile phones on this island.”

“Those are sold with their communication features disabled and tracking installed obviously.”

I lost interest in the place and started questioning Stella about why I was attacked since that hadn’t actually been answered in full.

“What the hell even is the militant wing of the Kakuhido. Even if you can’t reveal to me what he was after, you could at least tell me who attacked me..”

“You are really persistent, aren’t you? Do you think that girls like that?”

I was about to intone that I didn’t really regard her as a girl as much as a gorilla in a girl’s shape wearing a lab coat but I held my tongue back.

“Urgh. Fine, this is Teufel’s punishment for making me your chauffeur. The militant wing of the Kakuhido is an online hacker group fighting against so-called Late Stage Love Capitalism. Somehow or other they have gotten to know about the research on our facility, but given that the island is electro-magnetically separated from the rest of the world they can’t access our data unless they do so physically. That’s all I can tell you. Happy now?”

The Light Novel Club

The Light Novel Club

Status: Ongoing Author: Released: 2024
Ishikawa Isshin, a freshman at North High has decided to join his high school's Light Novel Club, hoping to get some inspiration and quiet, to work on his novel for a light novel writing contest. Unfortunately for Isshin, the club's non-talkative bibliophilic book girl and old-tech obsessed club president, Izumi, as well as other members of the school faculty are intent on getting in his way by dragging him off to participate in miscellaneous after-school club activities.  Will Isshin remain the reluctant member of the club and continue to regret his decision to have joined? Or will he come to love the club, and discover the true purpose of the Light Novel Club?  


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