An ordinary girl named Delilah was just waking up one morning on a hospital bed when she and a nurse she knew well were both whisked away from...the world and plunged into another. Until that moment, the eighteen-year-old was just a nobody—a sickly girl who often ended up hospitalized for randomly passing out on the street, getting a fever after having been out for a few long minutes...et cetera, et cetera. She'd been such a frequent visitor of the hospital, in fact, that she became familiar with the staff there, particularly in the ward she visited most.
One of those people was Otis Meagher, a young nurse. His cinnamon brown hair was naturally in disheveled waves, his jade-green eyes observant and accepting. In her many visits, Delilah had spoken with him about her interests and troubles—her inability to finish school on time, all the movies she'd watched, all the games she'd played...oh, specifically, a mobile game called After You of which she was especially fond.
But Delilah was a peculiar player.
Like any game, After You had a guide who supposedly instructed the player and told them what to do when lost. That guide was a non-playable character (NPC) named Zeph. He was such an NPC, actually, that he was given no last name although every other character had a full name.
And Delilah was a peculiar player.
Instead of any of the other, romanceable characters with individual routes and multiple endings, her favorite character was Zeph. She followed all of his implicit suggestions, knowing he was no conventional guide, and his objective, rather than guide her, was to trick and make fun of her. She obtained the bad endings of every other character so that, at the end of the first run of the game, she would unlock Zeph's backstory. After that, she did not tap past the title screen again, because after seeing his story, Zeph would only appear once: on the title screen. His only dialogue was reduced to "was that really worth it?" And once the player officially started over with the game, the NPC would be gone. His story would still be in the archives for view, but Zeph himself would vanish.
Delilah did not want that.
Delilah and Otis found themselves whisked away from the hospital that morning, just as he was telling her how she got admitted to the hospital this time, and that she would likely be discharged later that same day after some checkups. They found themselves in a world that seemed very much like their own but manipulated completely by someone named "Pistevo". At his will, Pistevo could cause the roads to appear or disappear.
Six other people had been brought into Pistevo's world at the same time: Harriet Johnson, a family medicine doctor; Iraneous Virtanen, a lawyer; Venus Passionblaze, the vampire antagonist of a movie called Getaway; Layna Tolliver, a knight from a book named Alone on the Battlefield; Calix Man, the protagonist of a manga series called Meet Me by the Willow Tree...and Zeph from After You.
The eight people from various worlds were divided into pairs, instructed by Pistevo to "survive" the "game" as "a couple" with their partner. They found out, eventually, that if they succeeded, they would be able to choose one world to return to. Partnered with Zeph, that meant that Delilah and her NPC could choose to both enter After You, or both go to Delilah's world...but not separate.
At the end of it all, Delilah pulled Zeph through the door marked "After You".
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