Chapter 9: Princely Propositions

Lionel could tell that Darius still didn’t believe him, so he reached into one of his pockets and took out his phone. Raising it up to Darius’s eyes, he tapped the screen. A light on the phone immediately flashed green, and Lionel smirked as he showed the screen to Darius. “There’s your proof,” he announced as he handed Darius the phone.

Darius could barely understand what he saw: a set of eyes were displayed right above the word ‘positive.’ How does this make me a noble?

“It scans your iris to determine whether you’re noble. Apparently, there’s a difference between our eyes and the average person’s. Do you believe me now?”

Darius nodded slightly, his mouth gaping. All his life he’d been a noble and had never known it.

“Well, now that that’s been settled, there’s something else I should tell you.” Lionel no longer smiled, and his face grew serious. “This test is extremely dangerous, and the higher the position you are taking it for, the more dangerous it becomes. Considering that in your case, you are taking the test for the emperor position on my behalf, this will be, without a shadow of a doubt, the most dangerous one. I don’t want to lie to you; there is a good chance that you will die. You should also know, however, that I am aware that you wanted to become a Spiritsmith, and I can help you with this. It is why you came here to Sihad, is it not?”

Darius felt like he’d been hit with a brick; he could barely construct a full sentence, “How did you know I came here to be a Spiritsmith?”

“It’s irrelevant, but if you must know, the lady you asked directions from earlier told me where you were going, and I also happened to know that they were currently accepting new smiths at the guild. Thus, I put two and two together.”

Darius thought back, quickly remembering that this was what had piqued his interest and caused him to follow the prince in the first place. He followed up with another question, “How can you help me become one?”

“Well, it’s really quite simple. You see, Darius; you want to become a Spiritsmith. In order to do so, you would request an interview and then prove yourself worthy. Assuming you were actually selected, you would then be sent to the Spiritsmith guild academy. Nevertheless, the chances of you being chosen are one in ten thousand. As it is, I am in a position of power. If you were to do this for me and succeed, I would then be elevated to a position of even greater power, which I would then use to ensure that you are sent to the Spiritsmith academy without the requisite interview, not to mention that there are ranks amongst nobles and your success would both instantly elevate your rank to lower-nobility as well as grant you a few rewards. I am already one of the emperor’s sons; thus, my rank can never really increase, so I have no need for any of the rewards. Now that you know everything, do you accept?”

The dumbstruck Darius needed a moment to process it all. One part of him wanted to accept the offer because of all the potential benefits, but the rest of him warned him to walk away. Was this worth his life?

Finally, he spoke, “You never told me what this test entails.”

“Even I don’t know what the test is, Darius. All anyone knows about it is that it’s dangerous and life-threatening. Will you accept, Darius?” The prince stared at Darius’s eyes. His face was grave and grim.

Darius hesitated, desperately calculating his options. The current conundrum he faced was more than he could process. Lionel noticed this and said, “You don’t have to give me an answer right now. Take a day or two to think about it.”

The two stared at each other for a few seconds. “Tell me you’ll think about it, Darius.”

Hearing these words, Darius sighed in relief. “Alright, I’ll think about it.”

Lionel’s expression lightened, his usual happy grin returning. “Are you visiting the guild tomorrow?”

“Yes, I am,” Darius replied.

“Good! Very good. I have a feeling you might discover something tomorrow that will nudge you in the right direction.”

Darius wasn’t exactly sure what Lionel meant by this, but he knew he wouldn’t get any more information.

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“When you choose to accept my offer, all you need to do is come here, and they’ll inform me of your arrival.”

Lionel took his phone off the table where Darius had laid it and stored it in his front pocket. “Well, I really must get going. I look forward to seeing you again! Enjoy the meal, it’s on me. Oh, and, nice hammer, by the way.” Prince Lionel glanced at the hammer propped against the booth.

Briskly walking out as if he had some urgent matter to attend to, Lionel left the room before Darius could reply Lionel. Now alone. he was left to his own thoughts and more food than he could possibly eat—although, that didn’t mean he wouldn’t try.

He gorged himself on all the various dishes spread on the table. He had never tasted anything this delicious. Ever. Trying morsels of each dish, he discovered that each was more delicious than the last.

Finally, after he couldn’t possibly eat anymore, he spent a few minutes before leaving to reflect on what had occurred. He had to admit that the rewards he would get for completing this test, whatever it was, were most definitely enticing. But, were they worth the risk? Were they really worth losing his life over? Darius valued his life more than anything else, and that would not change any time soon.

A part of him wanted to immediately accept, reasoning that since Prince Lionel had already saved his life, wouldn’t this be a fitting way to pay him back? By putting his life back at risk for the Prince. However, his rational side refused. If this went wrong, he would almost certainly die!

Roughly thirty minutes passed, and Darius had still not reached a decision. Standing up, he placed his hammer back into its strap before sliding open the booth doors and leaving.

As he walked out, one of the hostesses brought him his duffle bag. She was tall, beautiful, and in Darius’ mind, she was a solid eight-and-a-half out of ten. She handed Darius a small button and explained that Prince Lionel had arranged it for him; it was a taxi button that hailed the nearest empty taxi to his location. The entire time that she talked about this, Darius had not once looked at her face, his gaze completely focused on the woman’s cleavage. No matter how hard he struggled he couldn’t resist the alluring scene.

Upon realizing this, she was instantly angered by his disgusting behavior to the point of losing herself: a peasant gawking at her had pushed her to her limits.

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She abruptly shoved the button into his hands and walked away without looking back. She was new to the business, and her inexperience showed. Had she remembered who had brought Darius, her behavior would have been completely different. Unfortunately, old habits die hard.

Darius didn’t see it as his fault. He had tried to stop, but he just… hadn’t. Nevertheless, as soon as he worked out all his problems and became a Smitersmith, all his dreams and desires materialize and his days of being despised would be over. He would never forget her face. He never forgot.

As he walked out of the restaurant, he couldn’t help but notice several patrons staring. This was the young man had just exited the Prince’s VIP booth. Who was he? Why had someone of his class been invited to the royal booth? It made no sense to them.

All the attention made Darius somewhat uncomfortable, so he quickly walked out of the restaurant. Making his way down the path, he passed by the dragon statue which glanced at him before turning its attention to other concerns.

Darius pressed the button, and another sphere immediately zoomed toward him. He entered and sat for a moment, half-expecting the sphere to start moving on its own before remembering that he had to give it a destination. Unfortunately, he realized that he had no destination in mind, so he simply ordered, “The Spiritsmith Guild.” He wanted to see it for himself.

- my thoughts:
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