Villains Are Destined to Die
Everything was perfect.
That included my tiny, half-basement studio apartment, which was no bigger than a bathroom in the house I used to live in. Even the fact that I needed to start a part-time job straight away next week to cover my living expenses was great. I’d left that hellhole of a house and was finally free. That alone was more than enough to make me happy. But then…
“I thought I told you to make yourself scarce,” the man said. He was looking at me like I was a cockroach he’d found living under his bed. “You acted like a lunatic at the crown prince’s return celebration, I’m told?”
I was used to the look of hatred on his face—it was like he wanted to trample me out of existence this very instant. I’d gotten plenty of those looks in that house, but it wasn’t something you ever got used to.
“What the hell were you thinking?”
I found his penetrating gaze unsettling, and my lips quivered of their own accord. It was at that moment a white rectangle—like a window on a computer system?—appeared within my vision. The window was filled with text.
1. How should I know?
2. I wasn’t really thinking.
3. (In an ingratiating tone) Well… You see…
What the hell is this? I opened my mouth to say whatever popped into my head, but my throat felt like something was stuck in it, and I couldn’t make a sound. I stood there speechless as the blue-eyed man threatened me.
“You better start talking,” he said. He looked ready to kill me at the slightest provocation. I would die if I didn’t say something quickly, so I instinctively chose the third option.
“Well… You see…”
The words that came out of my mouth were identical to the selection I’d made in the rectangular window.
Huh? What in the world? My mouth hung open. I couldn’t believe what was happening. In fact, I had no idea what was going on at all. I’d opened my eyes to find myself lying on my back in an unfamiliar location. Sinister-looking strangers had suddenly appeared above me, scowls on their faces. My head was still fuzzy, like I wasn’t entirely awake yet.
“Well? You were saying?” pressed the closest man, face set in an intimidating frown. My response hadn’t satisfied him.
More text appeared in the window floating in my vision.
1. I’m sorry. I’ll be more careful.
2. The stupid maid made a mistake.
3. Those lowlifes snubbed me! Me! The only daughter of the House of Eckhart!
I had no time to ponder what exactly was going on. Peering timidly at the man, I quickly made my choice. It was important to keep the conversation going in a situation like this, even if I didn’t really know what it was about. I’d learned that lesson well from experience.
“I’m sorr—” I began to say, picking the first option.
“If an apology solved things, we wouldn’t need to be having this conversation in the first place,” the man said, cutting me off. Maybe my choice hadn’t really mattered. His biting tone made my stomach plummet. I flinched.
“Penelope Eckhart,” he said coldly.
“You are prohibited from using the Eckhart name for the foreseeable future.”
I knew that name and dialogue by heart. My head flew up and I got a better look at the man. I hadn’t been able to study him closely before, flustered as I was. He was standing a slight distance away from the bed. He wasn’t a part of that house, but instead a foreigner I had never seen before.
His eyes were as blue as the sea, his hair black like obsidian. And above his head was a long, thin bar reminiscent of the remaining battery indicator on my phone. There was also text made up of shimmering white letters.
Affection… score? Unless my eyes were playing tricks on me, the words above his head read: “Affection Score.”
“You will attend no balls, nor will you leave your room. During this period, you shall consider what you did wrong and how you will act in the future…”
“What are you looking at?” said the man, a scowl appearing on his emotionless face.
I kept staring at the spot above his head, too distracted to respond.
[Affection Score 0%]
No way… I shook my head, almost without realizing it. This was preposterous. Well and truly impossible.
“So you really are crazy just like they say,” the man said with a disdainful glare, noting my strange reaction. He turned away and walked to the door with hurried steps, like he wanted to escape as quickly as possible. The words “[Affection Score 0%]” grew smaller.
What did I do wrong? I wondered to myself, staring after the man in a daze. Hearing someone scoff, I turned and found the other stranger—a pink-haired man—standing in the shadows next to the door, his arms crossed. He had the same blue eyes as the man who’d just left, but his contained open derision.
[Affection Score -10%]
White letters glowed atop this man’s head as well. And the score was in the negative.
“Stupid b*tch. Serves you right,” said the man, his coarse words belying his pretty face. He turned to leave as well, letting the door slam shut behind him.
I was now alone in the room. I sat there for a while, stupefied. I couldn’t wrap my head around what had happened. After what felt like hours and hours of ruminating, I realized that both men had seemed familiar even though I’d never seen them before.
“You’ve got to be kidding…” I muttered. Apparently, I could talk now that I was alone, the invisible hand gripping my throat gone, but I barely noticed. I couldn’t believe what was happening, it seemed so absurd. “This can’t be real.”
There was no way that the game I’d been playing right before going to sleep was now my reality—and with me as one of the characters, no less.
“I must be dreaming right now.”
That was the only rational answer. But no amount of pulling my own hair or pinching my cheeks seemed to wake me up.
“N-no… no, no, no! This can’t be happening!”
Penelope Eckhart was the villain in the latest and hottest dating sim. She was also the protagonist of its “hard mode” version.