TLNC Chapter 18: Tanaka’s Room

Tanaka's Room

The next day at the club started out peacefully. Tanaka’s prediction that Megumi would be back did not come true. I was still demoralised about my prospects of completing the novel on time for the contest. Asahina was still there… doing some homework it seemed. Well, she was a second year. I’d imagine she’d have more work than us. Not like I’d never used extra-curricular club time to do homework before.

Yamada looked like he was in a daze, his skin, clothes and hair looked grey like all the colour had been driven out of him. He was unable to accept the reality that he was in a club with two “3D girls.” What was once his and Tanaka’s home away from home had been tarnished somehow. Tanaka was absent from class without telling the school why, which slightly bothered me given his ill-boading comments about his relationship with his sister.

Okabe-sensei, ever the taskmaster, assigned me the responsibility of going to Tanaka’s home to hand him a Career Guidance Form. Isn’t it too early for first-years to fill out this form anyway? I hoped that Okabe-sensei hadn’t forgotten that we were not third-years. Maybe he should set his sights higher, like he tells his students, and try running for US President rather than being a teacher in a small Japanese prefectural school.

Asahina finished her work, placed it in a pink envelope, and handed it to Izumi. Izumi wordlessly accepted it, and at that moment I realised what was going on. This same scene had already played out with me instead of Asahina. After passing the note to Izumi, Asahina approached me with her hands hidden behind her back. Leaning forward to peer at my monitor, a few strands of her chest-nut-coloured hair landed on my shoulder and I could feel — or I imagined I could feel her warmth. She was too close. Too close! My hands stopped typing on the black Model M keyboard.

“So how is your novel doing?”


“What do you even do in this club normally?”

“Did you join a club without even knowing what it does?”

To be fair, I had done the same essentially.

“To answer your question, we do whatever we like the way we like to. As long as it doesn’t get in the way of Izumi’s anti-modern-tech mania.”

Asahina glanced back at Izumi who didn’t react to anything I’d said. Then again even if she did react it would be too late by then, I’d be assaulted, if recent events are anything to go by.

Yamada seemed to have finally mentally recovered from his loss of a home away from home. Or perhaps it was the Otaku ability to escape from reality at all times coming through. Whatever it was, he was now playing a solo Top Quartetto Train Trading card game. It was a mind-numbingly boring Train Otaku card game where each card represented a real-life train and listed statistics like velocity, power, mass, year of manufacture and other trivia which were used to measure the strength of one train card against the other. I used to play with them… back in grade school. The cards originally belonged to Tanaka which reminded me that I had to visit his home. I guess the point of this club was to waste time being unproductive, which goes against the spirit of after-school clubs itself if the Student Handbook is anything to go by.

Club time finally came to an end so I could also escape the reality of my novel competition deadline. Soon we were all out. For a change, Asahina said her farewells rather than just scurrying away as soon as possible, as we usually did after club activities.

Izumi left towards the staff room to hand in the club-room key and I noticed that she had Asahina’s envelope in her hands. It was Asahina’s club entry application letter which Asahina was writing when I thought she was doing homework earlier.

After leaving the club room and stepping out of Izumi’s sight I was finally able to use my smartphone. I ignored Okabe-sensei’s paper with detailed instructions on how to get to Tanaka’s home and just entered the address on the GPS app.

I spent the quiet fifteen-minute train ride reading a Narou novel on the near-empty train carriage until I noticed my phone battery was low so I turned off my screen and looked around. A few high school girls in school uniforms which consisted of a white blouse, a red ribbon tie, a grey skirt and black shoes were giggling amongst themselves being a nuisance. To the side, one unassuming, introverted-looking young girl with pale skin, short brown hair, and large, expressive eyes, from the same school as those girls, was gazing out of the window at the intricate web of wires crisscrossing above. Most other passengers were either reading on their phones like I was a moment ago or lost in thought looking on with empty gazes.

Ten stops later I got off and was left at a hilly isolated train station. There weren’t even any barriers to stop me from leaving the station without paying but of course, I swiped my JR-Pass.

My phone battery died because Izumi categorically refused to let me charge my phone in the club room and I had forgotten to charge it last night. I was watching anime till 4am on my phone and though I intended to charge it once I was done watching anime when I woke up the phone was next to my pillow, unplugged and uncharged.

I tried using Okabe-sensei’s note and after getting lost a few times because I didn’t want to ask anyone for directions, a friendly elderly Buddhist monk with a few missing front-teeth, who was sweeping the street in front of his temple and who had noticed I was going in circles pointed me to the right place.

I soon found myself on a narrow provincial road in a residential area, there were terraced houses on both sides and the road was barely wide enough to let two cars pass each other. I could hear a stream of water flowing somewhere but could not see it.

As I was looking for the stream of water I realised I had arrived at the location which Okabe-sensei had described. I wondered what he had come here for but then dropped the thought because it was none of my business.

I stood in front of an old Western-style stone mansion with deep-set windows and a small front garden. The iron kissing gate leading into the garden was open so I walked in. There was a black Mitsubishi SUV in the garage and a water fountain that looked too large for the small garden, it was the source of the sound of flowing water that I had heard.

I walked up to the door and pressed the bell. A girl about a head shorter than me and with salmon-pink hair opened the door. Megumi and I stood staring at each other in awkwardness and surprise for a moment. The smell of chilli peppers wafted through the door which she held open by grasping its great brass lion’s head handle with both her hands.

For some reason, it hadn’t occurred to me that I would have to meet Megumi until I got here. I was already trying to escape reality regarding the novel draft, so maybe that’s why something so obvious escaped my mind. Maybe my subconscious mind was becoming better at blocking out unpleasant facts.

Megumi was wearing an apron over a light summer dress with a floral design. Her hair was disarmingly down, with only a hairpin keeping strands of pink hair from her green eyes. Those eyes moved down from my face to the stack of photo-copied notes in my hands. Before I could hand her the notes and make a swift getaway, she left the door open and turned back inside. Once she had gone a few paces into the house, she said without turning:

“Give my brother his notes yourself!”

I reluctantly stepped inside and closed the front door behind me.

After taking off my shoes and putting on some yellow indoor slippers I started walking down a narrow corridor with wooden walls adorned with paintings of medieval towers, and streets from Southern Europe, perhaps France or Italy but I could not be any more certain than that. I was soon brought to a large room with a glass roof. It was a reading room whose two-storey tall walls were lined with bookshelves. I was almost tempted to walk up to one of these shelves and take out a book. Probably an after-effect of spending too much time around the book-obsessed Izumi. I soon noticed there was one thing that was absent for this to be Tanaka’s home. There was a lack of any manga, light novels or anime-related goods. Tanaka must not use this library that much. The books were all hardbacks with expensive-looking monocoloured spines exuding authority and boredom.

The metallic sound of cooking utensils could be heard from an open doorway to my right. This sound was quickly followed by a female shriek. I detected the faint smell of smoke.


Another shrill female shriek came from the direction of the kitchen. Good grief. I was tempted to ignore it, just leave the notes on a table in the reading room and send Tanaka a message about the notes once I got home. I got Tanaka’s phone number during filming and had since then forgotten to delete it. However, at that moment a picture quickly flashed through my mind of a possible future and the tabloid newspaper headlines which would follow, I was paranoid that I would be blamed for arson after the corpse of a high school girl was found in the burnt-out stone husk of this mansion.

Despite my best instincts I walked into the open doorway and found myself in a clean modern kitchen, well clean except for the floor where Megumi had spilt chilli all over the floor and was desperately trying to scoop it back up into a pot. Once again we were looking at each other for a moment, her eyes were red, maybe because of the chilli or because she was going to cry again, as she had in the club room yesterday. I would rather avoid having to deal with that, especially since Asahina wasn’t there to comfort and reassure her.

I broke eye contact with her to turn off the gas stove where something which looked like the charred remains of an omelette was smouldering. When that was dealt with I opened the window to let the smell of smoke out.

“This happened because of you! What are you going to do about it?!”

An unreasonable response, as expected.

“Well first of all let me turn off the gas. What were you even trying to do if you-”

“Wait, don’t tell me you were trying to cook for your sick brother?”

“NO! I wasn’t but what if I was!? Are you implying something?”

Oh dear. A tsundere bro-con.

“Where are your parents? Please don’t tell me some cliche like they have gone abroad to work.”

“What the hell are you talking about? They’ve gone on a business trip just north so they won’t be home for two days. What do you know?”

So I was right. Her face started to get red all of a sudden.

“Wait wait do you think that that- that- I, just because my parents are not home-”

What an overactive imagination. A single tear dropped across her face into the ground. I had to stop her somehow.

“Fine. I’ll help you with cooking a meal for your younger brother. What ingredients have you got? Oh, and we’ll have to throw away that chilli sauce that you have been scooping up from the floor. It won’t do a sick man any good..”

Or a healthy man for that matter. Megumi looked down in disappointment.

“But it was grandma’s special get-well recipe..”

I may have disagreements with my snobbish older brother but he did always take care of me until he graduated when my parents were gone for work. I could see why she’d want to help her younger brother get better.

After getting the kitchen in order we settled for a simple light soup with a plate of pieces of toasted bread. For some reason Megumi refused to be the one to take up the food, saying “You did most of the cooking so… just do it okay!” And then she ran away presumably to her room leaving a stranger in her kitchen with a bowl of chicken soup and a plate with pieces of bread in his hands. I heard a door slam shut.

I walked back to the library, grabbed my school bag, and then climbed up a staircase where I assumed the bedrooms would be. She could have at least told me where Tanaka’s room was located. I avoided the white door with the rabbit-shaped ornament and instead focused on the identical white door next to it which did not have any ornamentation. I placed the plate on the floor and with my free hand knocked on the white door without the rabbit-shaped ornament.

A man’s muffled voice came from inside.

“Come in.”

I turned the doorknob and entered the room. Tanaka was sitting up straight on a four-poster bed which was kind of oversized for the room. For a change, the handheld he was playing games on wasn’t a retro console. I guess he just played old games in the club room cause he was forced to. Well, he was lucky Izumi didn’t care about anime or she’d prevent him from watching new anime and he’d have to rewatch old episodes of Mazinger Z or Golgo 13.

“Oh, it’s you… And you brought me food?”

Tanaka glanced my way and then moved back to his console. He didn’t look particularly sick to me.

“Any complaints? Would you rather it have been Kawasaki-san, the no. 1 ranked girl in class according to the unofficial ranking of girls by looks.”

Tanaka was wearing his school uniform. It must have been a last-minute decision he made to stay home, and without his parents to stop him… This comment got his attention and he raised his head.

“Oh, don’t tell me you are into that rubbish too, Ishikawa-san. Kawasaki is too perfect. You know a heroine has got to have some flaw, has got to be somewhat helpless, otherwise, if she’s completely independent then the protagonist is just unnecessary.”

Tanaka turned back to his handheld console.

“You know you don’t seem sick at all. Your sister nearly set the house on fire for nothing.”

“What are you talking about?”

I told him what had just happened and pulled out the notes I had intended to give him from my bag.

“You are not pulling my leg, are you? Trying to make fun of me for not being able to tell reality from fiction.”

“Now, why would I do that? Besides Yamada’s the stand-in for the post-modern condition of not being able to tell reality and fiction apart, not you.”

“Oh, really, then what am I stand in for in your eyes? In any case, Yamada can tell them apart. He just hates one and loves the other. Mmh you know this soup is pretty good. There’s no way that my sis made it.”

“Of course. I am the one who made it. Hey, why are you looking at me like that!?”

“Do you maybe have the hots for my sister?”

“No, why would you say that?”

“Well, there used to be a trend of protagonists getting beaten up by their heroines, don’t you remember?”

I shook my head and then sighed.

“I haven’t got the faintest idea what you are talking about.”

Everything with these guys had to be filtered through a simulacrum of tropes of fiction and media. Seriously, was there ever a moment or time that they had been really alive?

Tanaka threw away his console onto the corner of his bed but it bounced off. I caught it in my hands before it hit the ground. It looked like he was playing Tetris again.

“Well, since you are here anyway shall we watch something?”

“On what? I don’t see any television here. I don’t even see a PC in here. If I am going to watch something on a phone screen then I’d rather do that alone.”

There was a knock on the door but when I opened it there was no one to be seen. On the ground was a tray with two cups, an unopened 2 Litre cola bottle, two half-litre Dr Pepper bottles and some crisp packets. It must have been Megumi or some wandering ghost to leave this stuff here. Regardless I carried the food stuff into the room.

“Are you really Tanaka?”

I opened the bottle and poured him some cola.

“Is this some BS philosophical question or what?”

“No, I mean where’s all your stuff? This room looks like an honour student’s room rather than how I imagined your room.”

There was not a single manga, light novel or game on the bookshelf in the room. Well, it’s not like I was expecting a Dakimakura on his bed, onaholes put on display next to anime figurines stored like trophies, and the walls and ceiling covered in posters to form a schizophrenic fresco of smiling skimpily-clad illustrations of girls of questionable age calling him to another world, though in Yamada’s case, I wouldn’t be surprised… But as it was the only thing which could signify Tanaka’s club personality was his console.

The reason I had come here without lying to Okabe-sensei about being unable to go due to a non-existent part-time job was that I wanted to see what Tanaka’s room looked like given the state of the club room. Most “things” in the club room belonged to Tanaka. Izumi only cared for reading books and seemingly didn’t even care what she was reading, so most of her books were borrowed.

Yamada seemed to have reached such a point of hating the real world that he didn’t need as many physical representations to detach himself from reality in the first place, and those which he did have were made with his own hands, such as his illustrations. In the end, I guess Tanaka was just a high schooler and hadn’t reached the point of no return yet. The real question I should ask is where he gets all this money to buy this stuff.

“You are a lot nosier than I had thought Ishikawa but fine you brought me my notes and possibly saved me from dying in a fire allegedly so let me tell you why. It’s because of my sister. You know I wasn’t always an otaku, not until middle school when I met Yamada. I’ll tell you the rest after we watch something. He was always getting bullied by others but there was something bright about him. Haven’t you noticed it? It’s that time of the day, I need to watch some anime to get that click in my head that turns the hot light off and the cool night on. ”

I ignored Tanaka’s attempt to sound cool.

“Bright? Yamada? Not really. The only thing he’s noticeable for in a positive way is that he’s tall. Otherwise, he’s just your average fat otaku.”

“Well, otaku are the best when it comes to tearing down other otaku, or really themselves.”

While I agreed with what Tanaka was saying, then I wondered if he realised that meant the Light Novel Club was a fundamentally flawed existence.

Tanaka walked over to a CD rack tower in the corner of the room, and after some rummaging came back with a CD case.

“Got this from the club.”

He took the CD out and handed me the empty case. Akina Nakamori? Isn’t that some idol that the “Eternal Idol” old folks like?

Tanaka grabbed a heavy-looking laptop. It had an IBM logo with a red LED light in the upper corner of its cover. When he opened the display I noticed that it was a 4:3 screen. Tanaka opened the disk tray and inserted the CD. Then from a cupboard, he pulled out two NEC Corp Helmet-Mounted Displays, that looked rather like the kind of helmet that a fighter pilot may wear. He handed one to me.

“Aren’t those rather expensive?”

“Not when your parents are researchers who get prototypes for free, they’re not.”

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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