Picture this: it's 3 AM on a Friday night. All the windows in town are dark - everyone's gone to bed. Everyone but Randy Rivera.
Here's some facts about Randy:
- He's seventeen. That makes him a high school senior, so you can stop counting on your fingers.
- He has no job. In fact, he's never had a job. Not even at like, McDonalds or something.
- He's never had a car, either. Failed the permit test three times.
- He's got no bank account. He says it's because he doesn't trust banks, but really, it's because his entire savings consist of three slighty grungy twenty dollar bills.
- He doesn't know what he's doing for college. Hasn't submitted any applications, hasn't put any thought into it, nothing.
Oh, and finally: he's never had a girlfriend either. Don't mention that to him, though. He'll get even crabbier than usual.
So what's he doing up at 3 AM? Well, just about the only thing he does: playing video games. In particular, Hyper Face Puncher 2000.
"Hey, faggot!" he yells into the microphone that sticks out from his headphones. "Quit fucking spamming!"
Two virtual figures stand off on the screen Randy sits in front of. One, Randy's opponent, is tossing out fireballs. The other is repeatedly blocking them, swinging up his arms in an X position. If this were real life, the fire would still burn him, but in the world of Hyper Face Puncher 2000, the fireballs harmlessly vanish into a puff of pixels.
"Learn the matchup." his opponent's nasally voice comes on over the headphones. Randy grits his teeth.
Lucky for Randy, his mom's not home. So, he's able to get away with using such choice language.
Gripping his controller tight, Randy executes a complicated joystick maneuver, mashing buttons left and right. On the screen, his inputs are translated to actions: his character blocks another fireball, then ducks and rolls forward. The motion fluidly transitions into a sliding kick - but before the digital martial artist's foot can find its mark, the other character leaps into the air. Right as Randy's fighter stands back up, the opponent whips backwards with a reverse divekick. It lands squarely, taking away the last slivers of health on Randy's lifebar. "K.O." flashes across the screen... Randy throws his controller away in frustration.
"Yeah, of course you'd use the fucking busted divekick!"
"Stop whining and learn the matchup."
Randy throws his headphones too.
For a while, he just sits on the couch, seething. But soon, he grows tired... he gets up from the couch to head upstairs. A few hours worth of Cheeto crumbs cascade from his tee shirt when he does.
How did he get to this point?
"So, what'd you get on the test?"
Every day, Randy walks home with a girl named Liza Shepard. She's tall, with thick glasses and a tangle of frizzy hair the color of copper. He's a little embarrassed to be seen next to her - he's short enough without a giant ginger girl towering over him.
Since two years ago, when Randy moved to this new town, Liza's been his neighbor. He's reluctant to call her a friend, exactly... they walk to and from school together, and they have chemistry class together, but outside of that, they don't hang out. When they do, it's in a big group, with some of Randy's other not-quite friends. To him, she seems like one of the guys: she's into gaming and movies, and that's about where his thoughts on her end.
"I don't know." Randy said.
"Didn't you get your test back?" Liza asked.
"Well, how come you don't know, then?"
Sighing, the boy flipped around his backpack. "Well, I didn't really... look."
Randy's not the kind of guy to stress out over grades. Well, he is, but... can't stress out over what you don't see, right?
Liza watched as he dug through his backpack. It was a total rat's nest, but he managed to find the right paper... crumpled, but right.
"I got a..." he straightened out the test against his chest. "Uh... a 64."
"Oof." Liza scratched the back of her head as Randy crammed the paper back in with the others. "Do you know your average?"
"Nope." Randy shoved his hands in his pockets. Why was Liza getting on his case about this?
"Well, if you want any help..."
"You already help me, Liza."
"I mean, more than just copying off my homework." Liza cut in. "We could study together, or something, I don't know..."
At the word "study," Randy's brain shut off. His eyes began to wander from Liza's face to elsewhere... the road behind her...
The street Randy and Liza walked next to was packed with the cars of their classmates who could afford them, all trying to get home. A red light stopped the flood of cars in its tracks - in one window, near the front of the line, Randy could see a girl he'd been staring at for months.
Captain of the cheerleading team. Captain of the debate team. Upstanding student, both in academics and athletics. Her name was Mia, and she was capital C cute. Blonde, thin, perfect creamy skin... it was easy for other girls to disappear when she was around.
Like, Liza, for example.
"Hey?" she punched Randy on the shoulder. "Anybody home?"
As soon as she spoke, the light turned green, and the cars sped off. Randy looked back to his neighbor.
"I asked you what college you were thinking of going to."
College... Randy's brain shut off again.
It's 4 AM now. Ignore the hour I left out, it's not important. Also, Randy spent it doing something you'd probably rather not hear about, so, you're welcome.
Randy's at his computer, up in his bedroom. If he's not on the couch in the basement, he's more often than not at his desk. Multiplayer games proved to be frustrating earlier, so now he's scrolling down a torrent website, looking for something he could play by himself for a few hours.
That's when he finds it.
Getting Girls 101.
Now, Randy's not that kind of guy. The guy whose life is so depressing he plays creepy Japanese dating simulators. But... he is the curious type. And when he sees a weird-looking game, he's always gotta try it out.
Getting Girls 101 is a very hard game to find. Not many people know what it really is... there's no screenshots, no easily-accessible information on it, nothing. So when the download finished and he started up the file, Randy wasn't prepared for what would happen next...
Randy felt like he was laying on a cloud. Everything was soft and pillowy... sheets of silk surrounded him, a sea of comfort.
Wasn't he just at his computer?
The teen sat up in bed... except, it wasn't his bed. The luxurious king-sized mattress was a far cry from the crappy old twin one he had at home - it made it look like a cot. Intricate gold designs were sewn into the heavy blue covers, and the bedframe was the kind that enclosed the bed with a canopy of curtains. They were glittery sapphire, just barely transparent, with similar designs to the sheets embroidered on them. While it was certainly nice... Randy was stumped as to how he got here.
He must've fallen asleep, Randy thought. This was just a dream... why he was dreaming of owning a really fancy bed, he didn't know. But he reached out for one of the sparkly curtains, hoping to see what the rest of this fantasy bedroom looked like. Before his fingers could grasp the fabric, however, something shocking happened.
With a rush of cool wind, a spark of light burst out from nowhere. It glimmered in the air, merely half an inch from his hand. It's appearance was accompanied by a melodic noise, like a bell's chime.
The sudden sound and the abrupt flash sent Randy skittering back in surprise. He pulled up his covers like a shield... something was hovering in front of him. Something small, and glowy, and shaped like a person.
"Hello!" the chipper voice of a young woman rang through Randy's head. The small-glowy-person-thing was talking to him, but like... not moving its mouth. "Nice to meet you, Randy. You can call me Constance."
Randy lowered the sheets, his grip on them loosening as he inspected the odd creature. It was a bit hard to see past the azure glow, but... it looked like a girl in a dress, with butterfly wings sticking out from her back.
"You're a fairy." he said, dumbstruck. This dream was getting weird.
"Yes, good observation!" the little blue fairy clapped her hands together. "And I'm also your guide!"
"My guide?" Randy asked.
"Yes, your guide." Constance smiled. "You're playing Getting Girls 101, remember? I'm the tutorial, so to speak."
With a flap of her wings, Constance glided over to one of the bedposts. The ornate carvings on them were meant as decoration, but they also made a good seat for the small fairy. "Getting Girls 101, remember? The game you downloaded?" she propped up her head on her hands, resting her elbows on her knees.
"I mean..." Randy sat up straighter, pressing his hands to his chest. Something felt different... he was wearing a blue silk robe, tied at the waist with a sash of a darker color. "Wait, this is... this is the game?"
The fairy nodded her head yes.
"Oh." Randy looked around. "So... I'm not dreaming, or...?"
The fairy shook her head no.
Randy pinched himself.
"What are you doing?" as the fairy talked, the teen kept pinching himself. "I just told you, this isn't a dream."
"You're, uh..." Randy was realizing that, crazy as it was, Constance's words might have some truth behind them. "This is, uh..."
"I understand, you must be in shock, huh?" the fairy said. "Well, that's what usually happens. I understand."
"What do you mean, 'what usually happens?'" Randy asked. He felt himself becoming more and more curious... he started to climb out of the bed, pushing away the curtains.
The fairy giggled. "You're far from the first person to play Getting Girls 101."
Randy's bare feet touched the cold, gleaming marble floor... he gazed around at the room in awe. Stained glass windows lined the high-raising walls of the chamber, which was shaped Every piece of furniture was beautifully crafted and gilded with shiny gold leaf. This place must be some kind of palace, he thought.
"Well, there's a few things you should know..."
Randy tuned out the fairy as she began to go on about something or other. He opened up the wide wardrobe. Rows upon rows of fine blue clothing were held within the arms, but inside the body was some kind of mannequin or dummy. Whatever it was called, it was dressed in a suit of silver and gold armor... way cool.
"In your world, you're Randy Rivera, slacker. I don't know if you ever realized this, but nobody really thinks very highly of you..."
Randy next moved to a packed bookshelf, which was so tall that it nearly reached the ceiling. The volumes held inside it were large, each one about the size of one of his school textbooks. He cocked his head to the side so he could read the titles better (they were alligned horizontally). One was about the history of... Rivera? What, like his last name? It made it sound like a country or something.
"To put it simply, you're a bad person. Rude. Lazy. Misogynistic. And to be quite honest, you could stand to shower more and masturbate less. That's why you were brought here..."
After paging through the first half of the book, Randy slid it back in with the others. Turning around, he caught a glimpse of himself in the mirror. His eyebrows shot up, and his jaw dropped down.
"In this world, you're Randall, crown prince of the Kingdom of Rivera. This entire place was crafted specially, specifically for you, to spin your rough moral fiber into something akin to gold. I will-"
Constance finally shut her mouth as Randy dashed across the room to get a better look at the mirror.
Straight, white teeth - no Mountain Dew stains! A solid, toned core - no Doritos gut! His black hair was completely grease-free, his normally pasty skin was now tan and perfect, and, best of all... he seemed a little taller!
He couldn't believe that was him!
"What the hell?" he turned around, looking at himself from every angle. He started to untie the sash that kept his blue robe from slipping open. "Okay, now I know I'm dreaming!"
"What are you doing?" Constance snapped.
The robe fell to the marble, leaving Randy in nothing but a pair of black underwear that ran down his thighs. He rubbed his hands over his chest in excitement.
"Abs?!" he was nearly jumping in place. "Since when did I have abs?"
The fairy sighed. "Randy, did you listen to a word I said?"
Pausing, the teen glanced over his shoulder.
"You were talking?"
Constance shut her eyes, pinched the brim of her nose, and fluttered down from her perch to approach the boy.
"Randy, get some clothes on-"
Once again, the fairy was interrupted: someone was knocking at the door.
"Prince Randall?" the woman's words were a bit muffled, but they could be understood. "Prince Randall, you're needed downstairs..."
The door was pushed open, and a maid stepped inside, probably just a little older than Randy was. Her eyes were on the cleaning supplies she held, and when they flicked to Randy, she immediately became flustered.
"Oh, my!" her stammering voice took on a sudden sharpness. "Oh, I... I'm sorry!"
As soon as she had came in, she was gone. Constance slapped a hand to her forehead.
"Great. Because you were too busy ogling yourself, I'm gonna have to give you the short version..."
Constance hovering by his shoulder, Randy tugged at his collar... he was beginning to think he had put his shirt on wrong, or something. By now the teen had lost count of how many steps he had descended on this spiral staircase, but he still felt completely energized, charged up with anticipation. It was hard not to be excited after you just got transformed into a handsome prince.
"Well, lay it on me." he said, a wide, goofy smile on his face.
"First off... quit being so, so joyful!" Constance had her arms crossed. "You were brought here to be taught a lesson."
"Hm?" Randy cocked an eyebrow.
"Your heart is wounded with sin." the fairy continued. "If that wound left to fester, you'll never be happy in your life, and you'll bring nothing but misery upon others. That's why the Goddess chose to bring you here: to rehabilitate you, to purge your mind, heart, and soul of corruption."
For a while, there was silence. Then, Randy laughed.
"This is a really, really fucking weird dream."
"Still think it's a dream?" Constance smirked. "Fine. Just wait and see."
"What you're saying makes no sense." Randy tried to put his skepticism into words. "There's no such thing as a god, or a goddess, or whatever. And if there was one, why would they contact me through a, a video game? Hell, why would they waste their time on me at all?"
"I don't know why the Goddess acts how she does." said Constance. "I just know that she is very, very real."
"Well..." Randy moved a hand to the bannister, tapping his finger on it. He had stopped walking now. "Well, how does making me a hot prince help at all with... whatever it is that's wrong with me?"
"Explaining it defeats the purpose."
"Okay, fine." said Randy. "Can you at least tell me what the goal of all this is?"
"To make you a better person."
"No, I mean, how do I win? How do I beat the game?" he paused. "I mean, this is a game, right?"
"Oh, it's a bit more complicated than that..." Constance said. "But... well, you need to find true love."
"Hey, when I look like this..." he gestured to himself. "Shouldn't be hard at all, huh?"
All the fairy could do was shake her head.