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"Awesome! Welcome to King of Hearts. My name is Briar. This is a game of love. Player one is in a great situation. They've got a ton of potential partners to choose from. Choose from ten potential love interests to find your soulmate." Geoff wasn't exactly the average person but to him, ten potential love interests sounded like a fucking nightmare. He wasn't even sure he believed in soulmates. Geoff had never even dated anybody before and he was supposed to be out here wingmaning a guy he met twenty minutes ago.

"When you think you've got the person right, propose. If you've got your love interest correct, they'll accept the proposal immediately regardless of if you're dating or not as long as their heart is red. Proposing to more than three people during the game results in an instant game over for both players. Proposing to no one is an instant game over for both players." It hit Awsten in that moment, that a year from now, he would be engaged. Or dead. He wasn't sure which one would be worse. Sure, he had always joked about wanting to be a white, middle aged suburban dad but this was serious. Awsten wasn't even sure if he wanted to get married to begin with and now he was supposed to be proposing to somebody. He had three chances of course, however he struggled painfully with rejection so he seriously doubted he would use all three of those chances. If Awsten chose incorrectly and got rejected, there was a better possibility of him accepting his death than getting over it and proposing to someone else. "Player one, you have one year! Choose wisely."

"Player two is here to guide the first player along. Player two will have hints, tips and tricks on how to win the hearts of all of romantic prospects. Player two can see the hearts of all potential love interests! Hearts come in four colors with four different meanings. Grey hearts indicate disinterest or a neutral state while yellow hearts indicate friendship. Pink hearts signal a crush and of course red hearts symbolize love." He suddenly understood his role a bit better. He wasn't playing matchmaker for Awsten, not exactly. He was helping him find the correct person out of a group of people. "Did you get all that? Should I repeat the tutorial?" If Geoff was being honest, he was kind of glad he wasn't player one in this situation. Getting to know ten new people? He'd rather die again. Awsten was bad enough.

"We got it." Awsten replied quickly, not wanting to hear Briar repeat the question for the thousandth time. If Awsten was being honest, he was nervous. Having a one in ten shot at finding a soulmate sounded hard, even if he did get three chances. Thinking about soulmates in general stressed him out. He was twenty-three after all. He was a bit young to be thinking about the rest of his life. He tended to make a lot of poor life choices. Awsten wasn't exactly sure if this classified as another thing in the long list of regrets he had.

"Any questions?" Briar asked cheerfully, catching the attention of both boys.

"What happens if we die?"

"What happens if we win?"

The pair spoke in unison, their exteriors contrasting with their questions. Awsten was more pessimistic than usual. His big fear at the end of this year was dying. It wasn't something the younger boy had come to terms with just yet. Geoff was almost obnoxiously optimistic. He was getting a short change to live in the real world again. He was able to be a person again.

"If player one dies, player two instantly dies as well." Briar giggled softly, freaking Awsten out more than he'd like to admit. The fairy had skipped over the second player's question in favor for the protagonist of the game. Geoff didn't really think about the prospect of either of them dying. He tried to push the thought from his mind but the NPC wouldn't let him. "If player two dies, player one can try to finish the game alone. It is not recommended to play without player two. Any questions?"

"Playing without me is like playing the game on hard mode." Geoff commented dryly. "It's probably not a good idea. Ask her what happens if we win." Awsten wasn't in the mood to fight Geoff anymore. He had realized the power Geoff held in his hands and made a silent vow to try and get along more with his support. He also gave that promise a life expectancy of about five minutes.

"What happens if we win?" Awsten hadn't even considered the possibility of them winning. Finding a soulmate from a group of people that large sounded like a mess more than a miracle. Assuming he used all of his proposals, which he knew he wouldn't, he only had a 30% chance. The odds were stacked against him. Even with Geoff by his side, things weren't looking good for the two of them.

"If you beat the game, player one lives happily ever after with their partner. Player two gets a much more modest reward. Player two gets a wish. Any questions?"

Geoff doesn't need to die. He gets to live.

I can get a second life. I can wish to be alive again.

The pair immediately locked eyes. A grin was plastered across Geoff's face. His smile was more teeth than gums, showing off his canines. Awsten couldn't help but smile at how ridiculous the grin looked on his face. If he had to guess, he would say Geoff wasn't exactly happy a ton before his death. He had to admit that Geoff's smile was positively contagious. It caused him to smile so hard, his dimpled showed. It wasn't something he loved so he quickly broke the eye contact and suddenly found the grass by his feet very interesting.

"Can people see Geoff?" Awsten's voice surprised himself. It was a question he hadn't even thought of and yet it was escaping through his lips before he realized where it even came from. Geoff looked at the other boy mixed with confusion and excessive amounts of happiness. He must've looked pretty stupid in that moment. Geoff was almost glad that Awsten couldn't hold his gaze anymore. Even if it did mean he couldn't see the younger boy's smile.

"Player two is entirely human for the next three-hundred and sixty-five days. Any questions?" Briar replied, explaining more than the boy had asked for. One of her ideal animations consisted of the fairy fixing the sleeve of her dress. Geoff didn't notice it at first. He was too focused on seeing past the blue glow. His options were to stare at Awsten or stare at Briar and since he was about to have the next year with Awsten, Briar seemed a lot more interesting. That and the fact that she was a multidimensional fairy that appeared to be an IRL video game character. Geoff was in the process of trying not to fanboy.

"Do I already know all of my potential love interests?" This was a question that played more on Awsten's mind when the game was being explained. He ran through a list of everyone he knew that he wasn't related to and the list didn't seem very long or appealing for that matter. Only two people stuck out in his mind and even then, he didn't even really talk to one of those people.

"You've met some of them but you haven't actually met all of them just yet." Briar smiled softly, trying to soothe the boy's anxieties. "You will meet all of them before the six month mark. That will give you enough time to romance your love interest and propose to them. Any questions?" Awsten noticed only now that the fairy was using gender neutral terms. For a moment, he pondered if his partner wasn't a woman. Awsten had spent his entire life identifying as straight. Every so often, he actually joked that he wished he was bisexual. He found men to be much more attractive to him. He often found himself thinking of kissing boys and marrying a man. Awsten hesitated on his feelings. He lived in the south. It wasn't exactly easy for a feminine man with two different colored eyes and purple hair, let alone a bisexual one.

Game Over. Continue? // gawstenRead this story for FREE!