Prologue: The Missing Prince
A long ago when the world was young, there was a prosperous and flourishing ancient kingdom ruled by a human king whose wisdom is equal by the laws of his people.
One day, the kingdom attended by a Demon King wished to form a peace treaty pact. The human king, however, had no desire to form the pact, rejected the Demon King’s offer, thus resulted in an endless war between humanity and the Demon King’s army that lasted for a decade.
The Demon Army destroyed many villages and crashed any warriors who were bold enough to face them. Feared for his life, the coward king sneaked out from his castle fled out of his kingdom, leaving the kingdom defend-less and unprotected.
When all hope seemed to have lost, a little boy from a poor village stood up against the Demon King.
‘I will not fear you, Demon King!’ The boy said. ‘You may crush our home, but you will never crush our spirits or the love that we hold dearly for this kingdom!’
Moved and encouraged by the boy’s words, the rest of the villagers had joined forces with the boy to defeat Demon King. Soon enough, the battle ended victoriously for the boy’s army. The Demon King’s army was defeated and never returned.
Due to his bravery and heart that touched many, the boy was crowned as a new King. His name was Excalibell Hunts. Under his rules, Excalibell combined all the small villagers and created a mighty empire.
As many generations passed, the Kingdom blossomed prosperity with richness and numerous resources. They lived harmonically with other beings thought kept closed watch on the Demon King should he ever returned for revenge.
“YOUR Royal Highness!”
A deep manly voice echoed the hallways of the Excalibell’s castle where five feet tall and nine inches’ man in his late twenties, suited in a butler uniform, stopped at the middle of the halls. He sighed deeply and brushed his smooth parted black hair.
“Prince Duke, this isn’t funny. Come out wherever you are,” His commanding voice was firm. Anyone nearby would have known, based on the tone he had used, he meant business.
Sharp amber eyes searched for any sight of where his charge might have disappeared to while he was talking to a gardener just a while ago. Already, the man could feel a migraine slowly building up in his head.
Aidan Timbell sighed again. How could he be so careless as to let this happened? He had merely taken his eyes off the Crown Prince for just a minute to speak with the gardener over the decorations on the window for tonight’s event. By the time the conversations were over, His Royal Highness had disappeared from his side.
Aidan had taken every measurement to make sure that the Prince would not be able to escape from tonight’s dinner – he’d even went as far as walked reasonably closely beside the Prince as not to lose sight of him, much to the latter’s annoyance.
Huffed a sigh, the butler scratched his head. Being merely three years apart, Aidan had met His Royal Highness when he was a young toddler and became his constant companion before the King had officially promoted him to be the Prince's Personal Attendee at the age of thirteen.
Being a Butler to such a carefree heir to the throne was an exhausting job and at times, a frustrating one. Nonetheless, Aidan had never disliked the job, no matter how many times he complained to the King about his son’s misbehaviours.
Shaking his head, Aidan decided to focus the task on hands before the King found out his son had gone missing again.
Turned on his heels, the butler headed to where his troublemaker Royal Charge might be.
“IS it not ready yet, Lexus?”
“In a minute, Your Highness. Please be patient.”
Two figures were seen hunching over something in a dark underground dungeon, surrounded by glowing mushrooms. Only the sound of water from the wells dripping and mechanism fixed filled in the silent of the room.
One of the two men was a tall, fragile-looking man in late thirties, with a very sharp feature and medium wavy silver-white hair. He wore a dirty and worn laboratory coat with a pair of hands modified goggles while he was busily crouching down and working intensively on fixing a portal mechanism.
Not further away from him, a young fresh looking man in his mid-twenties, wearing a brown leather with a buckled upfront short-sleeved jerkin, worn-over the doublet, a pair of dark trousers and the Royal family’s crest pendant, was walking back and forth waiting impatiently for the former to finish the job.
Prince Duke of Excalibell sighed for the tenth times as he crossed his arms. A frown appeared on his tanned handsomely face with wavy brown hair curtained his sharp and wolfish angular features – no doubt that he was the heartthrob of the Kingdom.
Getting tired of waiting, the young Prince glanced over to his friend, the greatest inventor in the kingdom who did not look like he would be taking his eyes off the portal anytime soon, decided to wander off.
“Call me once you finished, Lexus. I’ll be outside!”
“Will do, Your Highness,” Lexus answered without as much as looking at the latter, focusing all his being on the mechanism instead.
With a charming smile, Duke climbed up the staircases to the entrance and exited the underground dungeon.
While waiting for Lexus to finish fixing the portal, the young prince decided to take a short rest underneath an Oak Tree. Duke laid on the grass and folded his arms behind his head. He inventively laughed as Aidan’s annoyed look crossed his mind along with his endless lecturers that surely awaited him.
Closed his eyes and sighed, Duke decided to let his butler faded in his mind and replaced by his beloved’s face – his darling Marian.
He remembered her soft rosy cheeks whenever he teases her when they’re together. Her lovely gaze and charming smile.
“Oh, my sweet Marian. How I’ve longed to see your lovely face. To hold you in my arms and to kiss you so passionately,” Duke smiled, slowly reopening his eyes and staring at the evening skies, disappointedly.
Sighed softly, he took out a small box from a leather pouch he always carried with him wherever he goes. Opening the box, it revealed to be a beautiful 10-carat diamond ring.
“Today is her twenty-second birthday. With this ring, we can officially get engaged and married,” The Prince probed deeply about their future together, when all the sudden, he heard footsteps approaching him.
“Your Highness,” Aidan’s calm and collected voice unwantedly sent shivers down the Prince’s spines.
“Aidan! How delightful to see you here! Though, I didn’t expect you to show up so soon,” Duke faked his laughter and looked away, running one hand over his soft locks.
“Your Highness. I must say at the very least, your magic has improved dramatically, seeing as how you managed to escape from my sight so frequently these days,” said Aidan, while approaching with steady steps while Duke sat upon the grass, shrugged at his comments.
“What is that you’re holding?”
“Marian’s engagement ring. Do you think she’d love it?”
“If it is a gift from the heart, I’m sure she would be pleased, Your Highness. Speaking of which, your father the King has sent me to inform you that he wishes to dine with you tonight. I’d imagine he would like to have words regarding your engagement and marriage with Miss Marian.”
’It’s about those senile senators, isn’t it? They’ve been pressuring father a lot about cancelling the whole engagement just because Marian isn’t from a royal bloodline–”
“–And also, out of this world. Your Highness, you know I have your full supports with whoever it is you chose to spend the rest of your life. However, as the only heir to the throne, you should also take into consideration what the people might feel about this whole marriage situation. In the end, you must put the people’s need first before yours,” Aidan’s firm tone caused the Prince to frown.
By all means, he had no intention to be mean except to continually remind Duke of his duty and responsibilities to his people first over his true love.
“I am aware things will not go easy since the day I’d made up my mind and announced to father and the councilmen my intention of marrying Marian,” Duke spoke after a long silence. “Truthfully, I could not imagine myself living without her standing by my side. We both have agreed to wait until she finishes her studies before we wed. Her parents have kindly accepted me into their family – though it took me years to finally earn her father’s blessing!”
“Indeed. Master Woodlocks is doubtfully a great man who made you proven your worth by making you, the sole heir to the throne, working at his farms for months. Until now, I’m still getting an earful from His Majesty for letting it happened.”
Duke laughed fondly at the memories of working at farms and how happy they all were when Marian’s father finally given his blessing to marry his little girl. Even the robotic Aidan had congratulated the happy couple and graced them with a bottle of fine wine afterwards.
Their moment was short-lived by the sound of Lexus’ voice excitingly calling out Duke’s name from the dungeon’s entrance.
“Your Highness, it’s alive! Come quickly!”
“What does he mean by ‘alive’? Moreover, what were you doing in the underground dungeon with him, Your Highness?” Aidan frowned deeply. Before he could probe deeper into the matter, Duke grabbed his arms and ushered him into the dungeon.
“I am most certainly against this idea, Your Royal Highness,” Aidan’s sharp tone echoed the dungeon as he stood in front of the activated portal, firmly crossed his arms on his chest. Beside him, Duke lightly tapped on his arms.
“Oh come on, man. Lightened-up, will you? I’ll be sure to be back in time for dinner, and no one will know I’m missing.”
“Except me and this stick in the mud here”, Lexus scoffed.
“This stick in the mud would gladly to blast you to the other dimension and forth without the need of using that portal over there.”
“Now, now, gentlemen. I trust everyone here can keep their lips sealed. Besides, it’s not like I’m breaking any laws. I’m just visiting my fiancée, that’s all.”
Aidan huffed a heavy sigh. “Does Miss Marian knows that you’re coming to visit her, Your Highness? It would cause her troubles if you were to show up unannounced during her dance recitals like you did last time.”
Duke waved at his butler’s comments. His eyes instantly fixed on the activated portal which he had been waiting for quite some time!
“Excellent work as always, Lexus!” Duke praised loudly, shaking the man’s hands before stepping closer to the portal. “Honestly, I have no idea what happened earlier. It went off suddenly on its own when I’d just about to enter.”
“Must have been the wired connections. It happens,” Lexus shrugged, taking off his goggles and blinked rapidly.
Grey eyes looked at the crown prince sternly as he handed over a black and small device.
“Here, wrap this around your wrist.”
“What is it?” Duke asked, wrapping the device on his wrist.
“Desperate times call for desperate measures, Your Highness. In case you got lost along the way, or something bad happened, presses that button on the device, and you will be teleported back. Albeit, forcefully and painfully.”
Winched by the inventor’s words, Duke shook his head. His hands trembled with anxiety and excitement of surprising his beloved with an engagement ring on her birthday. He inhaled and exhaled deeply for a few times and repeated the process.
Meanwhile, Aidan was frowning profoundly and had long given up stopping his stubborn charge from leaving. He knew he would be in big trouble if the King found out about this.
“I’ll be back before dinner. I promise,” Duke said, reassuringly.
“I’m holding you to your words, Your Highness,” Aidan spoke firmly. “If you’re not back in half an hour before dinner time, by will or force, I will drag you back, regardless.”
“Thanks,” Duke flashed a smile before stepped into closer to the portal. For some odd reason, he felt nervousness at the pits of his stomach. Putting both hands at the sides of the portal and taking another deep breath, Duke prayed he would land safely on the other side before stepping into the entrance and disappeared.
“TRUE love, huh?” Lexus sighed softly after the Prince had left. “I gotta say, I’m quite envious of His Highness; still youthful yet so full of life. Out of curiosity, have you ever been madly in love before?”
He received no response from the butler.
“Aidan?” Lexus turned only to find the man was already halfway heading to the exit. “Hey!”
While the inventor behind him was noisily nagging about being left behind, Aidan’s mind wandered on how he should handle the situation with the King should the occurs arose where he asked for his son’s whereabouts.
“Are you even listening to me!”
“I am,” Aidan nodded. “Now tell me how should I handle this situation with his Majesty should he asks for the Prince’s whereabouts?”
“Just tell him half-truth: His Highness went to the other world to visit his missus before you had the chance to stop him. His Majesty was young once, he should understand. Just leave the part where he escaped under your watch, and you’ll be fine!”
“If only it were that easy. I got a feeling this dinner meeting tonight is highly significant than usual.”
“Oh, you’re such a worry-wart! His Highness’s fine. He’ll be back before you could say–”
All the sudden, there was a buzzing noise came from the portal.
“What was that?”
Aidan shook his head. Taking a few steps back to the portal. The buzzing sound was distinctive yet loud enough to make disturbing noises. The noises increased with each minute passed.
“Has something like this ever happened before?” Aidan whispered lowly.
“N-Never! I’ve always checked to make sure everything goes soothingly well before His Highness uses the portal. I have never allowed him to use the portal without being supervised!”
The portal suddenly shut itself, caused the two men to halt in their conversation.
“No! Your Highness!”
Lexus rushed in panic, checking the portal. “No. No!” He gave the portal a few knocks when he was being pulled away all the sudden and got dragged by the butler.
“What are you doing?! The portal!”
There were no signs nor warnings when all the sudden, the portal exploded in blinding white. The explosion caused the whole place to swallowed up in a disaster.
Lexus, who managed to get out to safety, gawked horrifyingly at the scenes before them.
“Oh my god... OH, MY GOD!” Panicked swamped him over like a big tidal wave. “All of my researches... The Portal. His Highness!”
“Could you please be silence for a minute,” Aidan hissed softly while nursing his slightly bleeding head.
“Oh God, you’re bleeding! Are you alright?”
“I’m fine. Moreover,” Aidan took out a dagger he kept hidden in his sleeves and stood on his guard. It was then when he realised the noisy buzzing sound had gone and replaced with total silence.
The deafening silence lasted for only a minute before Lexus’s panicked attack came back alive again. This time, in full force.
“This is bad... This is really bad! Oh, what should we do? What should I do? Without the portal, even if His Highness uses the device I’ve given to him, there’s no way for him to return to this world!”
Gasped sharply, he rambled. “The king will be extremely furious! Oh, what am I supposed to do!”
“Quiet!” Aidan snapped.
A deep scowl appeared on his usual calm and collected face which caused the inventor to instantly stopped his ramblings. Sighed deeply, Aidan straightened his back and inhaled deeply. He then spoke in a calm tone.
“Is there any way for you to fix the portal?”
“Oh, that’s so easy for you to say! I didn’t spend endless sleepless nights just so–”
“Can you fix it?” Aidan said firmly and louder the second time. His patient getting thinner with the inventor as time passed quickly.
Lexus huffed a sigh, scratched his head.
“Well, I can try and recreate another portal. I have a copy of the portal’s design back at my place. With plenty of brainstorming and as much helps as I could get, it should take me at least three months to get it done.”
Aidan firmly nodded. “Understood. I’ll see what I can negotiate with His Majesty regarding the matter. Also, is there any alternative way I may be able to use to go to the other world besides the portal?”
Lexus pondered for a while before snapping his finger. “There’s a new invention which I’ve just successfully developed its prototype! It’s still fairly new and hasn’t been tested yet. So...”
“It’s perfect. Do you mind if I borrow this while I look for the Prince on the other side?”
“Did you not hear a word I’ve just said? It hasn’t been tested yet!”
“I heard you loud and clear. As His Highness’ Butler, it is my duty and responsibility to protect him, regardless.”
“But,” Lexus sighed deeply again. There was no point arguing with Excalibell’s finest Gran Mago once he made up his mind after all.
“Well, all right. The prototype is at my place as well as everything you may need for your journey there. We’ll meet up in an hour.”
“Very well then.”