Darius grinned, letting free all his troubles, but his glee was short-lived as his awe transformed into pure terror upon seeing another sphere hurtling towards them. Darius felt he had already cheated death three times that day, and he wasn’t sure whether he could accomplish this feat a fourth time. As the two spheres sped towards each other, neither one of them slowed. Just as Darius thought that his time had surely come, their taxi slid around the track line (I say a line because it was literally a single rail line suspended by God knew what) and traveled upside down. Darius looked around and realized—much to his relief—that they weren’t due to fall for a grizzly demise.
Although Lionel was quite understanding, he couldn’t help himself and laughed hysterically at his companion’s childlike wonder. Due to its spherical shape, the inside of the sphere was gyroscopically stable; thus, they were completely upright inside even though the sphere was hanging under the track line.
Lionel’s booming laugh finally broke Darius out of his amazed stupor. He felt embarrassed and reverted to his usual expressionless gaze.
“I apologize if I offended you. It’s just that I’ve never seen anyone this excited about a taxi before.” Although Darius’s expression did not change, Lionel knew that his apology had been accepted.
“Thank you.” Darius’s meek voice surprised Lionel.
“For what?” he replied.
“For saving my life; I never thanked you, so I’m doing it now,” Darius answered with slightly more confidence.
Lionel could have sworn he had seen the corner of Darius’s mouth curl up as if he were about to smile.
“Don’t sweat. Actually, I’m the one who should be thanking you.” Darius’s confused face clearly revealed that he didn’t know what Lionel was talking about.
Darius was about to speak when the taxi shot straight down and drastically decelerated. Finally, it halted outside a grand restaurant.
A blue light flashed three times, and the taxi cab dinged, signaling they had arrived. The hatch appeared again and popped out of the sphere, once more creating a flight of stairs. Lionel, being closer to the hatch, left first and descended down the hovering stairs.
As Darius exited, he noticed a large, golden dragon placed beside the path to the entrance. Although not a real dragon, it moved as if alive.
Two incredibly beautiful female attendants were stationed outside the main entrance. As soon as they saw the prince, they rushed to greet him. “Prince Lionel, your taxi notified us of your arrival, and everything is ready. I am Mara; this is Kim. We have the honor of being your hostesses tonight,” One of the attendants murmured with a soft, beautiful voice.
“Perfect,” Lionel replied. “Ladies, this is my friend…?” Lionel turned to look at Darius, waiting for his answer. Darius, however, had been too busy gawking at the two hostesses and hadn’t realized it was his turn to speak until he noticed everyone looking at him. This quickly jolted him back to reality, and he said, somewhat lost in vague fantasies, “Err… Omen. My name is Darius Omen.”
“Darius Omen? Interesting…” Darius could tell that the prince’s mind was working in overdrive but knew the man would not reveal his musings. It had been obvious to Darius that the man was a prince from the earlier incident with the young nobles, but there was something different about this prince. Although Lionel wasn’t as snooty as the other nobles, Darius still felt uncomfortable.
The two hostesses scrutinized Darius; their shared thoughts were obvious: what was Prince Lionel doing with someone like Lionel?
Lionel, on the other hand, took no notice and simply said, “Well then, Darius, shall we?”
He gestured to the entrance, and they both strolled down the path to the restaurant. The hostesses relieved Darius of his duffle bag, but he refused the two male attendants who tried to take his hammer. Everyone had the same look saying: ‘Who carries a hammer around with them like that?’
As they entered the restaurant, it became clear why Lionel had worn Darius’s hat and scarf. No matter where he went, the prince was a magnet for attention. As they walked through the packed restaurant, everyone turned their attention to him; one man even choked on his food when he saw Prince Lionel.
Lionel walked as fast as possible to his usual secluded booth, placed at the back where no one would see him.
Darius hadn’t eaten in quite a while now, and the aroma of delicious cuisines permeated the air. He hadn’t noticed just how hungry he was until now.
Finally, they reached the Prince’s royal VIP booth. A regular at that restaurant, he had been given a booth for his sole use. It was large, spacious, lavishly decorated. The large table in the middle was covered in all sorts of dishes. Lionel gestured to Darius to take a seat. Darius now felt like he was starving and couldn’t wait to dine. Hurriedly leaning his hammer against the wall, he sat down. Despite that Darius knew Lionel’s identity as a prince, he felt quite relaxed in front of him, so he didn’t mind revealing his true self. Contrary to what one expected, this only made Lionel feel more at ease.
The hostesses shut the doors and walked off.
“Before we begin, please allow me to introduce myself. As you have probably already guessed, I am Prince Lionel Farline the third, my father is Emperor Lionel Farline the second. I am Lord of the Sahid province.” Sahid was by far the most affluent city in the province and had become the name associated with the whole province. When royalty reached a certain level, they would have a province placed under their jurisdiction. Although in many cases, such as Lionel’s, the actual management of the provinces was performed by Dukes.
Darius wasn’t sure how to reply, so he allowed the prince to continue. “You, my friend, have something I want. You have no idea just how hard I’ve been looking for someone like you.”
“What are you talking about?” Darius asked, not quite sure where this was going.
“Look, Darius. There is something I need you to do for me. I would do it myself, but, quite frankly, I don’t feel like it, and I haven’t got the time for such things anyway.”
“What do you need?” Darius heard a tinge of nervousness in his voice.
Lionel stared at Darius for a few moments before explaining, “You see, Darius, in order for nobles to legally take control of and inherit their parents’ respective titles, which in my case is Emperor of the North and East of the continent, there is a certain examination we are forced to undergo. This is done to ensure that the heir is fit to inherit their parents’ legacy. I personally think it’s ridiculous and as I said, have no time for such trivialities, which is why I want to have you take the test in my stead.”
Darius thought over what Lionel had just said for a moment and frowned before asking, “Wait, how can I take this test for you? Aren’t you the one who has to do it?”
“Well, normally you would be right, but I’ve managed to find a loophole that allows me to find a substitute to fill in for me.”
“How is that?”
“Well, I don’t want to bore you with the specific, but here’s the short story. When it becomes time for a noble to undergo the examination, they send letters to each noble house with the qualifications needed to take the examination inside it. I have found a way to give someone else these qualifications in order for them to take the test for me, but there’s a catch; the transfer of qualifications can only be done between two nobles. Both parties must be of noble blood.”
The prince, who was sitting opposite Darius, leaned forward and said, “Darius, I’m not sure if you knew this, but you tested positive. Noble blood runs through your veins as well as mine.” His voice echoed in the booth.
Darius was speechless. He had no idea what to say. He had known his father had been a village chief, but he had certainly not been noble. “There must be some kind of mistake-“
“There is no mistake, Darius.” Lionel cut in, “I tested you as you came off the bus. You were positive for noble blood.”