“I’m sure you and plenty of other common folk think being royalty is like hitting the genetic jackpot in life, but it ain’t all it’s cracked up to be. At least, not for most of us. In Emil’s case, he got dealt a rough hand parentally.”
“Oh yeah?” I remarked, pressing for elaboration.
“His dad was always…let’s say, ‘entertaining’ lots of women behind the scenes. Meanwhile, on the surface, he was preaching family values, faithfulness, and all that other jazz to the people of his kingdom.”
“I see where Emil gets his healthy views on women from.”
“You’d think so, but there’s more to it than that,” Eli clarified. “Emil didn’t approve of his dad’s affairs—far from it. In fact, he despises his father.”
I offered the prince a puzzled expression and he continued.
“He found out about his father’s behavior through his mom who wasn’t too pleased about any of it. I’m sure you can understand why she would be enraged about it all, who could blame her? But the way she dealt with it…” Eli trailed off, his face becoming a fusion of anger, distance, and pity.
I said nothing. The prince shook his head before carrying on.
“She resented him for his resemblance to his father. And because of that, she took her anger out on her own son. Day in and day out, she abused him mentally and physically. She made his life hell, Shinsuke. No kid should have to go through what she put him through.”
I shifted in my seat, unable to find the words to respond to what I had just been told. I didn’t need to know the details to know how I felt about it.
“You saw all of this happen?” I asked, my voice unsteady with frustration.
“Not at first. I had no clue about any of this until I guess the dam just burst one day, and he started venting to me about everything. After that, it was hard to miss.”
Eli went on to explain that, according to Emil, his mother had expressed rage about being trapped in a marriage with a lecherous, cheating scumbag, all the while lying to the world about what a perfect, wholesome relationship they supposedly shared. Furthermore, both of Emil’s parents had unhealthy ideas of what “being a man” means and imposed those ideals upon their son.
“Once his father became aware that Emil knew about his affairs, he filled his head with all this nonsense about how a real man must protect his pride, secrets, and dignity at all costs, and as long as he did that, he could indulge in any immoral behavior he desires,” Eli explained. “Meanwhile, his mom said that he was born disgusting because of his father, and only she could mold Emil into a respectable man. Her way of doing this was being unreasonably strict and abusing him anytime he said or did something she disagreed with.”
I rolled my head to the side, glancing out the window to watch Eva and Mizuki sitting on the grass beside one another, having what looked to be another awkward conversation for my poor childhood friend. Eva was laughing, though. And the smile printed on her lips was the only thing that counteracted the anger I felt dying to escape me.
The prince continued. “His mom has always referred to her husband and son as ‘pig’ and ‘little pig’, respectively. As you might guess, this is her way of constantly reminding him she views him as nothing more than the demon spawn of his dad.”
A large cloud slowly eclipsed the sun, casting darkness upon the already dying dusk.
“I remember laughing at the way Emil recoiled whenever his mother called him ‘little pig’. I thought it was embarrassing, but funny, you know? I never understood why it upset him so much…until I did.” He shook his head. “When your own mother torments you all throughout your childhood, and your father is a disgusting, gaslighting phony, how could you not turn out messed up?”
“So, Emil was pretty screwed from the start, huh?” I observed.
Eli ran his palm across the stubble on his cheek. “Depends on how you look at it. The guy has had it rough. But he isn’t the only one in this unforgiving world, my friend. While it might be understandable why Emil is the way he is, he had a choice to be better. We all have a choice. Instead, he chose to look down upon and hurt others, including some of his own people. He chose to be disgusting and harmful towards women because of his hatred for his mother. And he chose to take this opportunity in the gauntlet to put himself above everyone else on the planet.”
The prince looked up and locked eyes with me. With a firm expression, he said, “I told you all of that because you asked. It’s important that you understand him, but don’t you dare go feeling so sorry that you throw this thing. His reasons for wanting to win this gauntlet are flimsy and selfish. And make no mistake, he will hurt Cynthia without a shred of remorse just to get what he wants.”
“What does he want from all of this?” I asked, too many thoughts swirling in my head.
“I’m sure he’ll tell you that part himself. I think you’ll get more fired up hearing it from him rather than me.”
“All right. I only have one more question.”
“What’s that?” he asked.
“How the hell did you find me today, anyway?”
He burst into laughter, gripping his knee tightly. “I thought you were gonna ask me something more serious than that! But that information is pretty easy to obtain, you know. I was going to go to your apartment, but instinct told me to check your school first.”
“Instinct, or a glance at the clock and an ounce of common sense?”
“Man aren’t you just full of quips?” He took out his phone and held it out to me. “Here, why don’t we exchange numbers? That way I don’t have to stalk you anymore~”
I retrieved my own phone and handed it to him. “Fine.”
With us now in possession of each other’s numbers, I bid Eli farewell and stepped out of the car. His driver returned to the vehicle and the prince rolled the window down to wave me off as he departed. Eva and Mizuki approached me once he was out of sight.
“Is everything okay, Shinsuke?” Mizuki asked.
“Yeah. I just learned a lot.”
“Hey, Shinsuke,” Eva started. “I didn’t realize some of the other royals were still in the kingdom. I’d like to keep the fact that I’m training you a secret for as long as we can. So, let’s call it quits for today. Starting tomorrow, I’d like to move our training somewhere more private.”
I nodded. “I think that’s a smart idea.”
That ended the day for us. On the trip home with Mizuki, I found myself distracted thinking about my conversation with Eli. Bits and pieces of his words flashed in my mind, and I could feel something bubbling inside of me.
I have an idea.
This was the actual end of the chapter! Thank you for reading, I hope you enjoyed!