Emil’s previously perfectly combed hair was now ruined, hanging sloppily in his face and sopping wet like a dog in the rain. His mouth was hanging open in disbelief, collecting droplets of water.
“You little…” he mumbled just before snapping into a fit of rage. He lunged at me, but security swiftly restrained him. “You pathetic, hideous little child! I’m going to humiliate you for this! Do you understand me?!”
I ignored the blowhard prince and instead found Eva in the audience with my eyes. She wore a smile from ear to ear and I smiled back.
With the help of my mother, of all people, I had finally done it. I had finally cast my first spell.
A beginner level spell, but a spell nonetheless.
The media began to frenzy, aiming to capture every second of the mayhem that was unfolding. Emil was still howling at me like a wild animal, but security swept him away and off the opposite end of the stage. They pulled me away as well, and I was led past Cynthia and her parents. Cynthia appeared shocked, while her father seemed greatly amused by what had just unfolded. Her mother, of course, was staring daggers into me.
I was brought out to a hallway and told to wait there. A short time later, my parents, Mizuki, and Eva arrived.
“I knew you could do it!” Eva squealed, latching onto me so hard I almost flew right to the ground.
“That stupid, smug little bastard has some nerve spitting in my son’s face!” mom growled.
“S-Sweetheart, please try to relax!” dad pleaded with her.
Mom kicked over a huge crate that was stacked upon another and pointed at me. “Shinsuke Watanabe, you better destroy that stuck up little shmuck, you understand me?!”
“Rip his teeth out. All of them,” Mizuki added, her aura clouded in a furious smog.
The sound of heels clacking against the hallway floor drew all our attention. Cynthia had appeared at the end of the hall and approached with a small entourage of her security.
“I need to talk to Shinsuke alone,” said the princess.
Her security formed a wall between me and the others, and she led me through a nearby door. She flicked a light, illuminating what looked to be a locker room for whatever teams competed at the stadium.
“Listen,” she started, “it’s great that you finally learned the spell. But you aren’t going to defeat someone on Emil’s level with a children’s spell.”
“Don’t you think I know that? I wasn’t exactly hedging my bets on beating the guy with Morning Dew, Cynthia.”
“Well, then what are you planning? Because I don’t see how you could possibly win at this point!”
I was already frustrated, and her nagging wasn’t helping. She wasn’t saying anything I didn’t already know, and taking her anxieties out on me was pushing me back to a boiling point.
But while I wanted to snap back at Cynthia, I replayed Emil’s disgusting words about her in my mind. She was justified in her fears. Me losing to him would doom her to a lifetime chained to that waste of oxygen. And with that in mind, I cooled down. I couldn’t be angry at her for that.
“Look, Cynthia. You keep saying we’re in this together, right? So, I need you to trust me here. I can’t guarantee that I’ll win, but I’m going to do everything I can to beat him. You’ve done all you could up to this point, you just need to leave the rest to me.”
She sighed and faced the wall, pressing her fist against it and leaning her forehead upon that hand. “Right. If that’s what you think I should do, fine. Go back to your hotel. You need sleep and it’s already late.”
“Then I guess this is good night,” I remarked.
“I guess it is.”
I didn’t know what else to say to the clearly stressed princess other than, “I really will do my best.”
“I know. I’ll let the driver know you and your group are coming.”
She left immediately after that.
That went well.
I left the locker room and reunited with my parents and friends. We headed to the parking garage and were driven back to the hotel we would be spending the night in. My parents and I had adjoining rooms, while Mizuki would be sharing a room with Eva.
I worried about how well that last detail would go over with my best friend, but I was more than confident she would be okay. In a way, it was kind of sweet to think she would be having a sleepover with someone besides me for the first time. That was something I couldn’t even say I’d done unless one counted me being held hostage at the castle. But I knew that she was still struggling with her feelings towards friendship with others. I could only hope that Eva would go easy on her.
Meanwhile, I spent another hour with my parents in their room. Dad and I listened to mom rant some more about Emil as he looked on, horrified. Despite her normally calm demeanor, it was safe to say mom was the one with the fire in their relationship. And while dad loved that about her, when she got mad, there was no telling who might get the shoe. That was enough to strike fear into the heart of just about anyone.
“Sweetheart, why don’t you come sit down with me and our son? We could watch some TV!” dad tried.
“Not right now! If I don’t pace, I’ll end up throwing something thinking about that little snot!” mom hissed.
“Son, I’m scared…”
“How do you think I feel? Imagine what she’ll do if I lose.”
At least the illusion has been shattered for some royals in their eyes…
It was an hour after midnight when I returned to my room, and just as I was preparing to get into bed, there was a knock at my door.
I got up and took a look through the peephole. It was a giddy-looking Eva.
“Hey, what are you doing here?” I asked as I let her in.
“I just had to come and let you know that tonight has been the best night ever!” She did an odd little excited dance.
“Oh yeah? Not really sure I agree…”
“I’m sharing a room with Mimi! Of course tonight is amazing!”
Oh no, she’s overwhelmed that poor girl, hasn’t she?
“That’s what you came over here to say?” I asked.
“I was holding in so much excitement, I had to brag to someone about it!” she squealed. “I totally got her hooked on this game on my phone. You should see her; she looks so cute tapping away!”
I smiled, hoping that Mizuki was really having as much fun as Eva seemed to think she was. “Well, that’s great to hear. But I should probably get to bed.”
“Oh, right! I almost forgot, hehe. There’s another reason I came over here.” She collected herself before continuing. “I wanted to say that I’m so proud of you. After seeing you blast that guy with Morning Dew, I have total faith that you’ve got this fight in the bag.”
“That’s…a lot to infer from me finally using a kid’s spell. But thanks, I appreciate the faith you have in me. I’ll do my best not to squander it.”
“What made it work this time, by the way?” she inquired.
“It’s hard to explain. I thought about something my mom told me once, and it seemed to work…kinda. The spell felt a little off in the moment.”
“I noticed that. The execution wasn’t quite steady. It was more like a burst into a stream. You totally drenched that fool!” She said that last part with a chuckle.
“I’ll figure it out. I think.”
“These might help,” she said, pulling some cards out from her pocket and handing them to me.
“What are these?”
“Flashcards. I made a bunch of these for you, just in case you ever managed to get a grasp on spellcasting. I wrote the names of the spells, drew their magic circles, and some information about what they do. If you can, try to memorize some of them before bed. If you can learn even one of these, it would improve your chances of winning tomorrow.”
“Thank you, Eva.”
“Anytime! All right, study up and then get that pretty head of yours to bed!”
She winked and let herself out of my room.
I flipped through the cards. There were at least thirty of them, and there was no way I was going to be able to memorize even a dozen of them. I decided to focus on a handful, and, eventually, just one.
I might have been able to pull off the Morning Dew spell at long last, but I was still bad at memorizing magic circles. One spell was the most I would likely be able to remember, so I would need to choose carefully.
Hm, if I could master this one…
I put the other cards in my bag and studied the one I chose for the next few hours. Once I felt myself beginning to nod out, I tossed it onto my bedside table and closed my eyes.
I’ll just have to hope that this is enough. Either way, no matter what, I’m not going down without a fight.
Thanks for reading! Next week the fight is on! Can Shinsuke do the impossible and defeat Emil?