“He did WHAT!?”
Yusei was the only one to raise his voice— though it didn’t really matter who yelled, when they were all thinking the same thing.
A few other students turned to look at them, but they quickly went back to minding their own business. Either way, the damage had been done, and Yusei made a noise, self-conscious of the attention he had drawn to himself.
“Like I said, it’s a rumor.”
“...Is it true?”
“Do you think I’m God?” Cupid scoffed at Airi’s question. “I don’t keep tabs on every single thing you do. Can you imagine if I did? You’re all teenagers, you’re at your most disgusting stage of pupation. I don’t want to see you doing this and that.”
“Ugh… Great.” Yusei clicked his tongue. “So our prospects are either some delusional otaku, or a serial killer.”
“One kill doesn’t make you a serial killer, idiot.” Rika corrected him.
“What did you call—!?”
His instincts to retaliate with aggression came to an abrupt halt the moment he locked eyes with Rika. Her hair was unkempt, and she wore her uniform in a sloppy way, but… she was still very much a girl. It made his skin crawl and his hair stick up in horror. He decided to avert his eyes and let it go, playing it cool.
Julius had been quiet for the most part, but after rubbing his chin in thought he decided to speak up.
“Hm. It certainly feels unfair, doesn’t it? To give us your hardest pupils to seduce and tell us to make them fall for us.”
“I’m not sure what else I should call them.”
Cupid stopped for a moment to think about it, amused.
“Although it’s objectively wrong, I quite like the sound of it, actually. Cupid’s pupils. My cupils, if you will. Haha.”
“Ahem. Anyway, it’s not my fault they didn’t die along with you six, is it? And in their defense, it’s not like you lot are any better— or would you like me to read your files again?”
“Please don’t.” Ren groaned.
Yusei, back to his lively self, shook his head.
“Whatever. The nerd’s for us guys, right? I think we got it easier than the girls. At least our target isn’t a deranged psychopath.”
“…I’m going for the girl, too.”
Rika casually declared. Everyone looked at her, and again, Yusei was the first to say something.
“Hah!? You play for that team, Rika!?”
“We just have to seduce them. What’s the big deal?”
“What’s the big— h-how do you even know she’ll go for you in the first place!?”
“How do you know she won’t?”
“Oh, she absolutely could,” interrupted Cupid with a smile, approaching the young boy with a few elegant steps.
“You see, love blurs lines. There is no black or white, it simply is. Love comes in all shapes and sizes: your family, your friends, your pets, your passions, money… they’re all different types of love, but true love nonetheless. Some people love their passion above their family, their best friend above their mother, or money above everyone they know.”
He extended his long fingers to tilt Yusei’s chin up, lowering his voice to a seductive tone. “If you can think it, you can love it.”
Yusei felt paralyzed, his face tinted with a blush.
“He’s saying I’m gonna beat your ass.”
Rika’s words snapped him out of Cupid’s trance. “Why, you…!”
Cupid laughed under his breath, bringing his hand back to his hips.
“The same goes for Adam. It’s possible the girls might have an advantage, yes, but it doesn’t mean their victory is guaranteed.”
“…Then,” Julius raised his hand, “I’ll take him.”
Ren was surprised to hear that, but Yusei simply shook his head.
“I knew it.”
“I’m going with the most logical choice taking into account who my rivals will be.” Julius explained in an annoyed tone. “Rika Dumas, Yusei Wilde, and Ren Dahl would be too much competition. Not to mention Miss Fitzgerald doesn’t sound like the kind of person I enjoy interacting with.”
He turned to look at the two remaining girls.
“I assume both Emma Lovecraft and Airi Carroll are going for Adam Stoker, yes? Miss Carroll seems like a tough opponent, but Miss Lovecraft… not so much - no offense.”
“Dude…” Rika patted Emma’s back.
Julius’ explanation made sense, Ren thought. He considered his words carefully in his head, realizing that, if they were going to play this game, they might as well play it the right way.
“…It’s a smart strategy, actually. After all, we don’t have to fall in love with them, they have to fall in love with us.”
Ren’s words brought a smile to Julius’ face, feeling like someone here finally understood him.
Rika couldn’t help but laugh at him having to give a long, convoluted explanation to justify his choice.
“I see,” Cupid nodded. “That’s very like you, my little beanstalk. But it’s all fine by me, divide yourselves up however you think is best, as long as you do my job— I mean, as long as you do a good job.”
“Oi, we definitely heard that.”
Yusei’s words get ignored once again, but Ren takes a mental note of them.
“If that’s all, I happen to be a very busy cherub, and have pressing matters to attend to, such as—”
“Your skincare routine.” Rika sighs. “We know.”
Ren takes a step forward.
“Then, before you go, there’s something else we’d like to know.”
“...? Yes, what is it?”
As usual, it takes him a second to formulate his question, thinking of the best way to word it that will pull as much information out of him as possible.
“...Is there anything else we should be careful of?”
Airi covered her mouth daintily. It’s not a question anyone else had thought of, but it made sense to ask something like that. She looked at the others and reallized they were all paying attention in their own way. It was certainly something they all wanted to know, after all.
“Anything we shouldn’t do? Anything that could end our second chance and bring us back to the afterworld?”
Cupid blinked a few times. He wasn’t expecting any of them to ask something so pointed, especially worded in such an accusatory way.
He liked it.
And it would have been visible in his devilish grin had he not suppressed it into a harmless smile instead.
“I believe my rules are fairly simple and self-explanatory… however, there is indeed something else.”
“The rules clearly state you have to make either of them fall for you, but not that you should fall in love with them. That much you understand, yes?”
“Yeah… though it feels wrong to hear Cupid himself say something like that.”
“Alas, it’s well-known that my arrows are one-way only. Reciprocation is a coin toss— the ultimate miracle. With that in mind, I will have no choice but to disqualify anyone that prioritizes their own feelings over my demands.”
“What do you mean?”
Cupid shook his head.
“You lot were particularly difficult to work with, you know. You all experienced love, but were never loved back, because you never pursued it the right way. This is your chance to feel that, but I won’t tolerate anyone looking for love anywhere else other than with Agatha or Adam.”
A creeping sensation of dread spiraled in the air— and Ren felt it most of all.
Cupid looked at him, then at the rest of them with a stern look on his face.
“Because you had your chance already. You’re alive to help me with my demand, not pursue your own doomed relationships yet again. I want you to be selfless for once in your lives— to prioritize the feelings of another over your own, and understand love from an entirely different perspective this time. Do you understand?”
They were all too gloomy to respond, because once again, Cupid had hit the nail on the head.
Airi raised her gaze from the ground over to Cupid, and spoke in her soft voice.
“By ‘disqualify’, you mean…?”
“...You already know. It means I’m bringing you back with me to Heaven.”
They all went silent again.