Prologue: I don't like mahjong



"Come on, I'll help you install it. There's even a neat tutorial for beginners!"

The office lady living alone next door kept pestering me these past few weeks about her gambling game, mahjong. That tile-matching computer game I only opened once and never returned to, but with more rules.

I tried to slam the window close, but she lodged a shoe just it time.

"You like cute anime girls, right!? Look look, cute catgirl!"

She pressed her phone's screen on the window, and indeed it was a cute catgirl. The mystery of why the catgirl welcomed me with this angry expression was not something I'd want to solve right now.

"Sorry, but I don't want to get involved in any gambling."

"It's not gambling! It's a legitimate sport recognized internationally (soon)! Here, a video of pro players!"

I was shown nothing but old men sprinkled with some girls, all of them with an aura of despair. Was this the right video?

"Look, it's getting late, I still have school tomorro--"

"Play with me! Just one game! I'll teach you personally! I'll give you candy if you want!"

She was as loud as a horn despite the dead night. She probably knew mom and dad worked overseas, and that my little sister was staying at a friend's house tonight.

"What about your work?"

"I work by feel, and I won't feel good tomorrow. So let me in already and get ready for some all-night mahjong action!"

I did not want to let her in. My instincts, sharpened by my sister who kept bullying me at chess, screamed "STRANGER DANGER". But the office lady who was always with my friends in the park wasn't a stranger to me.

Still! She was scaring me!

"T-Tomorrow, let's play the whole day tomorrow. I'll skip school as well."

I'll make a break for it before the break of dawn!

"It has to be tonight! I've already prepared some food!"

She lifted a plastic bag filled with junk food and soda, and flashed her best attempt at an innocent smile.


"Please! I don't want to play tonight..."

The building tears in my eyes froze her.

"...Okay. But we'll play one day, right?"

Would I?

I could lie to her right now and end this scene, but my heart wouldn't take it.

I could tell her the truth, but despite everything I've said, I didn't want the friendly office lady to cry. She was a hero to us neighborhood kids, after all.

In the end, I...

"I don't know."

The night turned silent.

On my bed, swirling thoughts filled my head. Her tears, the cute catgirl, everything swirled into a hotpot of emotions that kept me up.

Her mahjong looked complicated, but maybe I could ask my genius little sister to teach me and give the office lady a pleasant surprise.

That would make her day, right?

The abyss of sleep caught up to me, and for some reason, the sight of that familiar ceiling didn't feel that familiar anymore.


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