Chapter 4: The Mageka on Duty (Part 4) 

“Excuse me, Missy Kou. Care to begin explaining the ‘start a business’ thing yet?” I asked snappishly.

The same question had repeated a total of six times from our way back, to dinner preparations, and all the way down to the feast, but she only would stay evasive and give vague responses every single time. And this time… 

“I’ll tell you after you do the dishes.” As expected, same as the last few trials, she only replied with her signature smile.

At the sight of her lying on the couch lazily flipping through a magazine, I felt like the rage within me was knocking down the wall of repression.

“You lazy bones! Do you have any idea how much time and effort I’ve poured into this baked pork chop rice? After realising that we ran out of pork chops by the time we got back, I had to rush to the market to get some before it closed, pick tomatoes of matching quality by comparing among ten different stalls, then head home straight with the meal preparations, which cost a deal of more than two hours, while you’re just there waiting and eating throughout the entire span, and now expect me to take up the dishwashing as well!? How in the world would you understand my struggles without the intent to even help out?”

Thanks to someone’s spontaneous order, my original plan for cooking white sauce pasta, sadly, had to be called off. Given there was no sign of pork chop in our fridge, I once asked her to accept the unfortunate truth, and wait patiently for the pasta to be ready. However, opposite to what I demanded, she only kept bugging me and using the “starting a business” thing as a threat for me to stick to her plan in order to learn what it meant, and hence all the tedious work aforementioned.

And just to add here, the reasons I chose to purchase pork chops at the wet market instead of the supermarket were because the former’s usually seemed fresher to me, and that it’d be great to shop at and help out some small local businesses under the shadow of giant corporations. Plus the two were only located one street away from one another - it didn’t quite matter which side I visited anyways.

“Mm? Well thanks, I appreciate it.” With a soft smile hanging on her face, Kou’s eyes were still locked in on the magazine.

“You…” I attempted to swallow down the anger. “How about you try playing my role next time? I mean it’d be nice for us to share the workload for cooking and doing dishes, don’t you think?”

“That’s fine by me. But the reason why my hands are free is because you forbid me from touching any of the kitchenware, isn’t it?” Putting down the magazine, she raised her head and passed the question back to me.

“Er… about this…” The question triggered some horrifying flashbacks which immediately zipped my mouth shut and convinced me to give up forcing her on the dishes. “Nevermind, you didn’t hear anything.”

Kou and I were living under the same roof… Well, “she offered me a shelter” by her version. Three years ago when I had just arrived in this world, it was her who brought me to this house, and told me I could stay as long as I liked.

I remember that day when I was pacing on the street, contemplating where to settle for a brief rest, and that was when she came into the picture. Unfazed by the speech of me being a mageka from a distant realm, she placed total trust in my words. After understanding my “difficulties”—the way she described the situation— she took me back to her place without further ado and invited me to stay, albeit half-forcefully.

Only after residing for about a month here did I learn the fact that she was a legacy of a renowned “Shake”. And it seemed that she was into the paranormal like aliens, monsters and ghost stories. Perhaps that’s what draws her into believing that I’m a true mageka!

This duplex apartment in Happy Valley had been all to herself until my addition. As the other tenant living here, I was responsible for the monthly rent payment and daily cooking, while she handled the remaining chores.

Cooking wasn’t a duty of mine as agreed in the first place, until one day when an extremely dreadful scene took place before my eyes… and that was when I volunteered to take up the part.

“I’ve had my fill. Let’s pick up what we’ve started.” Passing the dishwashing chore to our dear dishwasher purchased recently, I walked up to the lady half-lying on the sofa who didn’t seem to be bothered by the consequence of weight gain. “Don’t leave me hanging any further, okay?” 

As if something from my question rang a bell with her, Kou’s slothful act was cut short. She hung a “wait a second” in the air, before dumping the magazine in hand on the couch, dashing to her bedroom and slamming the door locked.

Did she really have to be so discreet?

My attention landed on the magazine on the couch, and I decided to pick it up for a glance before she returned. However, the content, stuffed with introductions to the paranormal and ghost stories worldwide, left me speechless.

So there really was someone who liked this sort of stuff that operated on a completely different concept from the ordinary, and was willing to pay to read about it?

It must be weird for me, a mageka, to say something like this, right? But that was my honest thought.

I wasn’t too sure whether these ghost stories were in fact related to the rumoured mysterious beings since I hadn’t done an inspection on one before, but I did know that some people were terrified by these kinds of stories. Some would even scream at the top of their lungs at the instance of others trying to tell a ghost story, whereas on the contrary, there were some people like “missy” who were highly attached to these topics, to the point they would spend time and effort to investigate further.

What piqued my interest wasn’t the idea that “someone was scared to learn the truth behind the story”, rather, it was “someone was determined to uncover the truth”. 

For example, an article in this magazine was about a river monster in Nam Sang Wai who would drag pedestrians into the water and swallow them alive. There were quite a number of ghost stories fanatics who took time to investigate on-site, and even tried to communicate with it.

To date, no one knew the truth behind the story, but what would they do if the truth surfaced? Kill the monster? Spare it? Or turn a blind eye to it and let its existence remain a fictional story?

If they found out that there was no river monster, to begin with in Nam Sang Wai, would they still be willing to accept the truth? Or would they stand their ground on its existence, deny the truth by all means, and replace it with their own beliefs?

“Sakura? Are you interested in the magazine?” Kou’s voice slipped into my right ear. “I could lend it to you if you want.” 

“Not really, I was only flipping through ‘cause I was bored.” Noticing her coming out, I closed the magazine and sat up straight. “Could you start explaining? And just so you know, don’t think you can get away easily if this is just an awful joke.”

Kou didn’t say a word, but sat next to me and handed her laptop over, signalling me to pay attention to the lines on the screen—and they left me as dumbstruck as a wooden chicken.