“A second chance at life…!”
“Fufu. It sounds so simple.”
“There’s no way in hell I’m doin’ what this weirdo says!”
“There’s gotta be a catch.”
“Can’t we just stay dead?”
“Did… Did he say marriage?”
These were the thoughts running through the heads of the six young people standing in the grand Hall of Heaven as the cherub called Cupid - a handsome man in a modern, colorful outfit, sat on a large, ornate chair and handed down their fates.
“I can read your thoughts, you brats.”
He loudly slurped the last drops of his drink through the straw; his angelic features completely lost in his uncouth manners.
“Anyway, it seems you all get the gist of it, yeah? But don’t get it wrong, I’m not giving you a second chance at life, you’re earning it, got it? You’re only going back down there temporarily until you fulfill my conditions, then it’s up to you if you get to stay or not.”
His words were still too confusing for them to fully grasp so they received no answer, which Cupid took as a sign to continue, adjusting his heart-shaped sunglasses up his nose.
“What? Did the accident mess up your brains, too?”
“Uh… No, it’s just…”
One of the three boys finally talked. The other teenagers looked at him, and their collective gazes piercing him made him hesitate for a moment. He took a long breath to unscramble his thoughts, running a hand through his dark hair before deciding to start from the beginning.
“You’re saying all of us died during that bus ride on the school field trip, right? At the same time?”
“And you’re… an angel trying to save us?”
Cupid made a noise at that question, disgusted.
“Ew, no. I’m a cherub. Angels are nothing but bootlickers! I actually have a job, and that’s to make sure everyone falls in love with someone and gets to experience the glory of the divine through love… or something.”
“Ahem. Listen, little boy. Do you need me to repeat myself? Here goes: I’m gonna bring you back to life; if you want to stay alive, you have to find a mate, marry them, protect them from all harm, and aaaaaall your petty wishes will come true. That’s the Cupid guarantee. Now tell me that doesn’t sound like a sweet deal?”
“It doesn’t! At all!”
One of the other guys immediately snapped back. He looked ready to get into a physical fight. fists clenched and teeth bared.
Cupid lowered his glasses to look at him, condescendingly.
“Yeah? What’s the problem there, blondie? Don’t you want to go back to the world of the living?”
“Of course I do! I’m sure we all do! But this is stupid!” His face, red from anger, was now red for a different reason as his voice began to crack. “First of all, we’re all too damn young to get married! We’re not even out of high school yet!”
Cupid leans forward, gesturing dramatically with his hands.
“Back in the day, this was the norm. I don’t control what society condones or condemns, and I honestly couldn’t care less. You might think you’re too young, but in another time, you’d all be spinsters and bachelor rejects already!”
The angry boy couldn’t do anything but growl at him as Cupid continued, in a slightly more annoyed tone this time.
“Besides, you don’t get to pick how or why you get to go back. I do. And this is what I want.”
His heavy reply silenced the room again, until the girl with long pink hair politely raised her hand to speak in a quiet voice.
“...Why are you doing this, Mr. Cupid?”
The girl lowered her hand once she had his attention.
“This is a very generous offer. I don’t suppose you do this kind of thing often, do you?”
Cupid blinked, then grinned with pride.
“You’re right, I don’t. I’m simply a very kind individual, just as you said. When all six of you died so suddenly I couldn’t help but feel sorry for you— you’re all so young, none of you ever got the chance to properly experience love in your short, short lives.”
“I thought you said we were spinsters,” interrupted a short girl with silver, unkempt hair.
Cupid had been caught in his own contradiction - but his panic lasted only a second; he cleared his throat, and slumped back down on his chair.
“...Fine, yeah. You wanna know the truth? The truth is you’re all losers when it comes to love. All of you. Total failures—”
He could feel the glares he was getting from them as sharp as knives.
“...But you’re all my failures.”
That got their attention immediately.
“Please, elaborate,” the green-haired male requested politely.
“Oh? You want me to explain why you’re all failures, specifically? Fine with me.”
Cupid straightened up, magically poofing a few sheets of paper onto his hand. He pushed his sunglasses above his forehead and began to read:
The blond boy with the short temper reacted upon hearing his name.
“You act tough and look tough, but you’re actually very afraid of girls. You’re the only one here who has gone out with someone before, but only because you were terrorized into it.”
Yusei was frozen in place. His mouth was making sounds as if trying to form words, but nothing came out.
Cupid laughed under his breath, enjoying his reaction. He moved on to the second page.
“That brings me to Airi Carroll.”
The polite-looking girl with pink hair blinked a couple of times.
“You’re the very definition of a perfect girl, but deep down you’re nothing of the sort. When you like someone you start to show your true colors, and that’s made love difficult for you.”
Unlike Yusei, Airi simply covered her mouth daintily with her hand.
“You’re gonna do this for all of us, aren’t you,” asked the silver-haired girl, but before she could finish her sentence, Cupid was raising his voice and calling her name.
“Rika Dumas! Not cute at all. No interest in her future, only cares about skateboarding and eating fast food. So blunt and so sharp that nobody in the entire world likes her.”
“Yeah, I don’t think it says that.”
“Yes it does.”
“Let me see—” she asked, walking straight over before Cupid raised an invisible barrier between them and Rika hit her head on it with a dry thud.
“I’m not done yet, stay back, little girl.”
Cupid switched pages again.
“Who’s next, who’s next… ah, yes. Julius Verne. That’s you, isn’t it?”
The boy with the long green hair that Cupid was looking at smiled at him - a smile too sly for his words.
“That’s me. But I would deeply appreciate it if you wouldn’t read your notes on me aloud. I am somewhat ashamed, you see.”
“Excuse me? You’re saying you’re shy all of a sudden?”
Julius simply laughed under his breath. Cupid shrugged and turned the page.
“Eh, I don’t care. You’re also a loser and you know why you’re a loser, so there’s no need for me to tell you, anyway. Moving on… Let’s see… Ren Dahl!”
The boy with the dark hair reacted to his name.
“Ren, you’ve been in love with your first crush since you were five and have never moved on, rejected good prospects, and pushed away anyone that even tried to get close to you out of loyalty…”
“Awwww!” The girls cooed at him. Ren avoided their eyes, feeling a faint blush creep on his face.
“...Yet you’ve never told this girl how you feel despite countless opportunities, like the loser you are.”
“Ohhh…” The girls traded their looks for those of pity. Ren avoided their eyes with much more purpose.
Cupid switches to the last page.
“Emma Lovecraft. An idiot among idiots. Has delusions about being a hero of justice. No sense of direction. Gets distracted easily. Wouldn’t know love if it hit her in the face.”
The five teenagers looked at each other.
“...Was there someone like that?”
Airi turned to look around, but the Hall of Heaven was just a long, white room that extended infinitely in all directions, and there was no sign of the sixth girl that had been with them from the start.
“Come to think of it, there was another girl here, huh…” Rika scratched her head, looking around.
“Where did she go?”
It seemed pointless to look around in a place like that, but they couldn’t help it. Disappearing in an empty place was quite a feat, after all.
Ren pointed his finger behind Cupid’s chair, speaking calmly.
“...She’s right there, guys,” he sighed.
Cupid, who had also been wondering where the girl had gone, blinks at Ren pointing in his direction. He turned around to look behind him, and was immediately met with the fiery bright eyes of the missing redheaded girl, who was holding onto his chair with excitement.
It gave Cupid such a scare he dropped his drink on the pure white floor.
“Is it true!? Can we go back!? Do we get to go on the field trip, after all!?”
She leaned closer to Cupid with every question, shrinking him onto his chair until Cupid decided to remember he’s a cherub, growling and using magic to float her away from him like a scruffed cat, rudely letting her plop back on the floor next to the others.
“When did you get so close!? Don’t do that! It ruins my skincare! You’ll make me regret deciding to help you!”
Cupid had clearly been frightened by Emma, but Emma barely seemed to care, laughing it off sheepishly as she rubbed her butt where it hit the floor.
The six of them were now standing in front of him, and he couldn’t help but think of his own words… These were his failures, after all, and he at least owed them more of an explanation.
He rubbed his temple, exasperated, looking for the nicest way to break things up for them.
“...Look. I was in charge of all six of you in matters of the heart, but with teenagers I tend to… just leave them on autopilot, you see. Because you’re all hormonal and your brains are everywhere except inside your skulls, so there’s no point in guiding you when you’re gonna end up heartbroken in a few months, anyway.”
His nonchalance received no answer, because Cupid looked apologetic, for once, so they let him continue.
“When you died, it was a bit of a wake up call for me. I should have been paying attention; making sure that you all lived your life to the fullest, no matter how short. That’s why I want to let you go back again and do it right this time.”
They all looked at each other. Ren looked at Emma who was still on the floor, then looked at Cupid again and took a step forward.
“I’m sure all of us here would be grateful for the opportunity, but asking us to get married is… well, most of us won’t do it until we’re proper adults. Are you saying you’ll let us live that long, only to, what, kill us again once we do it?”
Cupid hadn’t thought of things that far. He rubbed his chin, pondering Ren’s words while he idly used magic to clean the mess he made with his drink a moment ago.
“I suppose marriage is a bit unfair when presented as an end goal, not to mention kids from your generation rarely want to get married, anyway…”
The six of them smiled at each other, thinking Cupid was finally warming up to them. Then he suddenly gasped and clapped his hands, as if he had just had an eureka moment.
“I know! You’ll all work on an even playing field!”
Julius crossed his arms, skeptical.
“...? Do you mean there’s something that all of us could fulfill as a condition to return to life?”
Cupid’s smile was still there, but there was something devious to it this time. He crossed his long legs and looked at them.
“Listen, all six of you had one thing in common: you all experienced unrequited love when you were alive. Secret crushes, impossible loves, forbidden desires… yet none of you ever got to feel what it’s like to be loved back by your beloved.”
A gloomy aura enveloped them all the moment they heard those words.
Their thoughts were all racing towards that one love - the person they fell for at one point and could never have. Some of their heartbreak was fresh, some only had faint memories of it, but ultimately Cupid was right, so they all stayed quiet— all except Emma, who gasped loudly.
“H-How do you know that!?”
It broke the tension between the other five, but it only irritated Cupid.
“Of course I know! Duh!”
A few of them snickered at her.
“So even someone like Emma…” Ren murmured under his breath.
Yusei shook his head.
“Alright, so, what now? We go back and let ourselves be vulnerable and shit, like enough to fall in love again or some corny thing like that?”
“Oh, goodness, no. You’ve already experienced falling in love, so there would be no point! What you’re missing is… reciprocation!”
Cupid finally stood up from his chair, raising his hands to conjure with magic an impressive illusion of a translucent tree above his head, where the ranks of angels appeared listed along with their names in a language none of them could understand. He pointed near the top.
“Angels are the messengers of God. They get to come and go through the realms as they see fit and they get to revive anyone they deem worthy. They’re showoffs and we don’t like them.”
He pointed to the bottom of the tree.
“Cherubs, which include all the Cupids, are around here. We’re treated no better than worker ants, and we don’t have enough power to bring back to life more than one person at a time. We can try it again once someone we revive dies, but doing it for more than one person for too long is unheard of.”
“Hah!?” Yusei snapped. “So that means you’re weak! We can’t go back, then!”
The tree disappeared with a flick of Cupid’s hand - the same hand he used to magically zip Yusei’s mouth shut.
“Not exactly. See, other than you six, I was also in charge of two others. Unlike you all, they’ve never fallen in love, but they’re at the cusp of a hormonal breakthrough that’s going to drive them absolutely bonkers insane.”
“So they’re late bloomers…” Rika added.
“Very much so.” Cupid nodded. “Your mission will be to make them fall in love with you, and for you to go out with them, as a couple.”
Their collective voices echoed on nonexistent walls. Ren felt a cold drop of sweat fall from his forehead, the image of the girl he’s been in love with in secret since he was a child breaking in pieces in his mind.
“I agree…” Airi tilted her head with a worried look on her face. “And if there’s only two of them… doesn’t that mean…?”
Cupid grinned, drawing a fluorescent heart with his finger in the air.
“Heheh. That’s right, darling! This is gonna be a love battle on a timer, and you’ll be fighting each other for another chance to live!”