Izumi was the only one who hadn’t contributed anything directly of her own to the website, but I kept quiet about it. I didn’t want anymore pointless work.
Yamada completed his picture of Sakaguchi Ango’s decadent lifestyle during the weekend, so I inserted that image as the first thing people would see. Hopefully they won’t scroll past that picture to read my embarrassing screed about light novels being literature to explain why our club has any point of existing.
I didn’t want to have to use any video editing software too much, so Tanaka’s video all had to be taken in as few cuts as possible. When anyone messed up too much then we just recorded their bit again. Well, it’s not like we were going to record anything too complex, just us speaking to the camera one at a time. I borrowed a tripod for the camera from the Film Club.
This school has way too many clubs but I can’t imagine that any was as embarrassing as our own.
Yamada talked about Full Platinum Panic, a mecha light novel series set in a world where the Soviet Union never collapsed. The protagonist, he explained, was an experienced mech pilot who was sent to an ordinary high school where he fails to adapt, acts strangely, and consequently gets beaten by his blue-haired tsundere high school love interest.
Is this really okay?
Tanaka also talked about how he didn’t realise the Soviet Union was a real place until halfway through the series, and had just assumed it was a fantasy setting country created by the author, Renji Matsumi, cause it didn’t feel like the name of the real country. Is this guy really a first year in high school? Did he pass the entrance exam I did?
I believe that I am a fairly calm and civilised person, but I nearly came to blows with Tanaka because I felt like he was treating the whole thing as a joke, despite his protestations that he was being serious. Tanaka had initially wanted to talk about a banned light novel about incest between an older brother and younger sister. For a moment, I thought maybe he was going to get off the point, and begin talking about the actual story but instead he started on an impassioned rant against the corrupt minds that drafted and passed the amended Tokyo Metropolitan Ordinance Regarding the Healthy Development of Youths, but of course I stopped him and deleted the recording.
I told him to speak about any novel which wouldn’t get our club banned, after all if the club got banned because of his little spiel, then all of the time I was wasting on this website would be pointless. Tanaka insisted he had never read any novels which didn’t have incest in them, I didn’t believe him for a moment, so after a while I tore up his speech about the virtues of “pure sister-brother relationships” and gave him my speech about Osamu Dazai’s No Longer Human. Since I had already torn up his speech he had no choice but to use mine, though this left me speech-less.
Through all this, Yamada behind the camera looked like he was enjoying the spectacle which was unfolding which pissed me off even further, and while I briefly wondered what was our club president doing while I was doing her job, a quick glance revealed that she was reading without a care in the world, like I wasn’t just shouting at Tanaka.
After Dazai the literary novel I liked the most was Natsume Souseki’ Kokoro, but that was too obvious of a choice and would send the signal that I don’t read “pure literature” despite been in a “literary club,” which, of course, is the truth, so instead I went with a slightly less obvious choice and delivered some scatter-brained obvious takes on Ryunosuke Akutagawa’s The Spider’s Web and Hell Screen. Yeah, I wasn’t really trying that hard, not after Tanaka pulled that stunt.
Finally, Izumi talked about the novel she was currently reading, which was part of Cordwainer Smith’s American sci-fi novels and short-stories about cat girls and other animal people fighting against the tyrannical order of the Instrumentality of Mankind. Izumi’s lines were delivered in an efficient, unemotional voice, rather like the Lords of the Instrumentality she described would speak, I imagined. Other than Izumi, the rest of us were stuttering messes but I wasn’t going to edit that out. I hoped that none of my classmates would come across this video.
The audio on this old camcorder left much to be desired but maybe it was better if they couldn’t hear some of the things we said, and for some unknown reason I was unable to remove the time-code from the video. I hope that whoever was unfortunate enough to come across it would think that I put in some extra-effort to make it look like it was shot to look like some old camcorder footage, rather than it actually being the case, but I knew that was wishful thinking on my part.
With those thoughts I uploaded the website onto the server via an FTP client installed on my laptop at home. The old IBM computer in the clubroom had no internet connection. We never heard again from Okabe-sensei about the website. Perhaps he had forgotten all about it due to his old age. I hoped so. I felt both underwhelmed and relieved at the same time.
Unexpectedly something annoying did come out of this.
About a week after the website was put up, I had already completely forgotten about it by erasing it from my mind. Or more accurately, I liked to pretend it never happened. Yes, it was fiction. The only remaining sign of that dream was the books on how to make html websites Izumi had lent to me and which she had borrowed from the school library, and so, I had forgotten to check out the free email I had set up for the website. It’s not like I expected anyone to email us but I didn’t have anything to add to the website so I created an email address, and posted it on the site with the injunction to: “Email us with any feedback or to request assistance from North High’s Light Novel Club.” I didn’t really mean anything by it.
I was working on my novel, or pretending to work on it while scrolling through my draft and making minor inconsequential changes. The deadline was getting closer and I had wasted my time and mental energy on club activities which had predictably amounted to nothing. Izumi was reading silently, whereas Yamada and Tanaka were being loud while playing a game on two small hand-held consoles connected via a cable. As usual there was no unity in this club room, and I was also to blame for it too, but it was fine as long as we didn’t have to do anything. I sipped on my green tea, and made sure to hit CTRL+S to save my novel on my pen drive before this PC soon, finally, inevitably, gave in to the forces of time, heat and dust.
There was a knock on the door. Then there was another two knocks. Izumi just ignored it so I replied in the club president’s stead.
“Please come in!”
The door slid open and a beautiful girl with chestnut coloured hair tied in a ponytail appeared on the threshold to our club room. The girl was rather petite but her body had fat in all the right places. Tanaka and Yamada were immediately taken aback and looked uneasy, I could have sworn I heard Yamada curse “3D Pig Disgusting” under his breath, I don’t know if I should praise him or look down on his for not hiding his power-level. I guess the reason why the duo weren’t bothered by Izumi even though she was just as good-looking, was cause they regarded her as furniture that came with the club room they usurped to store their otaku haul at school, rather than as a girl at all. Well, it did help that Izumi herself was weird like us, which is a nice way of saying she acted like there was something wrong with her. See? I can be nice too. This new girl on the other hand exuded riajuu-vibes.
The chestnut-colour-haired girl looked at me very briefly and smiled almost imperceivably before turning to the rest of us. The girl was an acquaintance of mine, true, but nothing more, she was the president of the Computer Club I had recently come into contact with, when I was forced to acquire the piece of junk I was typing words into until a moment ago when our visitor arrived.
It occurred to me that it would have been more appropriate if the “Computer Club” rather than the “not-literature club” was a place where otaku played old video-games after school under the excuse that they were doing “research of retro technology,” but when I visited the Computer Club it was a proper club run by this girl.
I keep on referring to her as “this girl” because I just couldn’t remember her name, well I could barely remember the names of my classmates. Come to think of it I have no idea what any of the first names of the people in this club are, cause they never bothered to properly introduce themselves. I guess there’s people with even worse social grace than myself. The world is a big place.
“Hello, I am Asahina Asuka, class 2-8, president of the Computer Club. Nice to meet you all. May I speak with this club’s president?”
Oh, so she was an upper-classman? Honestly, by her height alone she wouldn’t look out of place in middle-school if it weren’t for her proportions, but she carried herself in a way, that it was a matter of course that she was an upper-classman.
“Yes, she’s listening to you even though it looks like she’s ignoring you,” I pointed her towards Izumi who was reading another foreign book. “That’s Izumi-san, the president of this club.”
Asahina seemed unfazed by the strange conduct or the club room’s otaku paraphernalia blotting her view and a bright smile adorned her soft lips as she posed the frigid Izumi a strange question.
“In what ways do you communicate online?”
Izumi put down a gaudy flowery looking red bookmark, most likely hand made, between the pages of her Cordwainer, and shut her book with a thump, and then having taken her time she finally turned towards her upperclassman and replied back to her with an equally out of place reply.
“This is a literature club, so we avoid the distractions of late-stage capitalism or modernity, or whatever you want to call it..”
Izumi tilted her head with a face faking confusion. She pointed towards me, no, towards my computer screen.
“Then what’s that? Oh, isn’t that something Ishiida? Ishihara? Sorry- I didn’t mean to be rude,”
Asahina looked apologetically towards me.
“Ishikawa.” I said. Even if I couldn’t recall her name either, it still hurt when a beautiful girl couldn’t remember my name.
“Yes, Ishikawa-san, sorry I won’t forget your name from now onwards. But, yes, isn’t that the PC Ishikawa-san got from our club? When he asked for it, I thought that maybe he was an old computer enthusiast but then it turned out that he didn’t really know much about computers. Why is that here? Isn’t that a bit modern?”
That’s where she was going with this? What a useless conversation. It made Tanaka’s and Yamada’s inane conversations about the best bust sizes of fictional 2D characters seem like meaningful riveting content by comparison. It felt like I was witnessing a serious internet discussion in the real world, which to clarify, meant that it was completely pointless, wholly performative and lacking in any self-awareness.
“But that isn’t modern technology.” Izumi protested, still seated and still frosty as ever, but now holding the side of her glasses with two fingers. Was that supposed to be an intellectual pose? “It’s a functional device with no unnecessary features and it is the most efficient tool to write novels.”
“Oh, really? I don’t think it really matters to a good writer what kind of tools he uses. Right Ishikawa-san?”
I looked away towards the window. Nice weather. Please don’t drag me into your retarded debate, okay?
Izumi got up from her seated position and straightened the folds of the skirt of her sailor uniform and then looked straight at Asahina like she had more to say but in her usual fashion hesitated. Asahina for her part waited for Izumi to finish. From the corner of my eye I noticed that Yamada and Tanaka were looking forward, with bated breaths, for some sort of cat-fight to start. In what world did they live in? There’s no way that would happen. Oh right, they live in a land called ‘Fantasy.’ ‘But who would win?’ I heard Tanaka whisper. The book girl or the computer girl? Send your votes in by texting your answers to the following number:
“Anything manufactured before June 29, 2007, is of course, an essential piece of technology, because that was the day when the first smartphone was sold, when both the real world and the internet were irreparably ruined, leaving only the worlds of fictional novels pure.”
So that autistic date had nothing to do with her sister for whom she kept this club open. I was an idiot to hope despite myself that it was for some deeper reason..This is what happens when a silent girl doesn’t stay silent. Yamada and Tanaka, sorry for calling you detached from reality. Relatively speaking they were sane, or I should say, they were only pretending to be insane to escape reality, but I wondered if /ourgirl/ Izumi was only pretending to be retarded.
All this melodrama about nothing was getting on my nerves. Come on, if it was about something, like say, a relationship, then it would still be annoying as an outsider, but this is just nothing.
“Cut.” I uttered raising my hand, as if I were a director angry at a bad take. “What exactly did you come here for, Asahina-sempai? I doubt it was to discuss the merits of technology and its consequences. You might have noticed, by all the otaku junk lying around here, that we are not the debate club, that’s two classes over that way on the third floor, so can you please get to the point without needlessly riling up Izumi? Here have my seat. You too Izumi. I’ll make some tea. Thank you very much.”
Who was I thanking? Myself? Well, I should be thankful to myself if no one else was going to be.
Tanaka looked at me with narrowed eyes like I was some kind spoil-sport for breaking up the idiotic fight, no it wasn’t even a fight, cause Izumi and Asahina weren’t close enough to each other to have a fight, it was more like an idiotic argument about nothing that you could find on any large forum on the internet.
Meanwhile Yamada had lost all interest in the girls, like a true 2D-otaku, and was playing a dungeon RPG with his worn-out hand-held console.
Asahina finally explained the purpose of her visit which had disrupted my peace, as she put down her tea cup.
“We are going to set up an IRC server. However, I can’t get any of the Computer Club’s members to use IRC. They are all too used to using Line, and don’t see the point of using IRC. They think it’s only for middle-aged people who want to relive their glory days and people who care about old-aesthetics over any actual functionality.”
What the heck is an IRC? I don’t know but it sounds like your club-members are right on the money, you should listen to them. Liking obscure things may not be a replacement for a personality, but then what’s this personality stuff anyway? Sounds pretty vague to me.
“I came across your website, which looks like it’s something out of the 90s, for better and for worse.” Asahina squinted with an uncertain expression. “I tried messaging the site email but received no reply.”
Izumi looked at me. I shrugged in annoyance. Why is it my job to monitor the club’s inbox? Besides who’d send emails to us anyway? Well, now we have an answer to that.
Asahina explained that IRC, the Internet Relay Protocol, is a communication protocol, which could be used for real-time text-messaging and which was one of the earliest forms of online chat, which could also be used for file transfer. This was truly revolutionary stuff, well, maybe back in the 1980s.
I just had to ask. Why try to re-invent the wheel, when there are already a thousand identical, and equally unexciting chat services, it’s not like the things you say are going say will become more interesting just cause you use a more obscure online chatting service, no, it’s still going to be filled with the same mundane, uninteresting things which the people who use the more popular online chat services post. It’s pointless to create an online “secret club” if you don’t actually have any real secrets.
Asahina blushed unexpectedly at my simple question, and tried to look away towards the window like I had done not too long ago. I was feeling like looking away too out of embarrassment, what’s with this reaction? Was she going to confess?
“Because it’s fun.”
She confessed her feelings.
Izumi pushed up her unusually thick-rimmed glasses, light was reflected hiding her eyes but I could tell that whatever the look that glare was hiding, it was going to be trouble for me.