Chapter 12.2: The Bloodline Continuation Ceremony (2)

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Looking at them objectively, Cyan and Ciel’s talents weren’t bad.
In fact, they were actually excellent.
Good enough to live up to their surname of Lionheart.

‘…The problem is that this year’s Bloodline Continuation Ceremony….’

Ancilla wasn’t sure whether or not to feel dissatisfied with the contents of this year’s Bloodline Continuation Ceremony.
Asking them to explore a labyrinth after entering through separate entrances? That would mean that Cyan and Ciel would be unable to help each other…

‘If it was just simple sparring….
Either Cyan or Ciel, one of them would definitely have won….’

Although, she could no longer be quite so sure of this.
Eugene, from the collateral lines, had completely defeated Cyan in their duel.
This fact had complicated things for Ancilla.
But in a labyrinth with many variables… the outcome of their duel might not be so easily repeated.

Should she be satisfied because of that? Or should she be dissatisfied that this ceremony castrated the main family’s advantage and placed all the participants on an equal level from the very start?

‘…And I definitely cannot be caught interfering with the Bloodline Continuation Ceremony.’

Having stressed about this problem all night, Ancilla let out a long sigh.
She had thought about secretly persuading her husband to give her children an advantage, but she knew that her husband was someone who held strict expectations of his children.
Pointlessly trying to push her luck like this would only lead to her receiving a disappointed look from her husband.

Ancilla turned her head to the window and murmured, “…I need to give them an advantage, but what….”

There were only a few more days until the Bloodline Continuation Ceremony.
During this time, the participants would need to cram any information that might prove helpful in the labyrinth.
As a result of this, instead of training with Hazard, Cyan and Ciel were planning to dig through any labyrinth-related books they had managed to find in the capital.

Although she might have slapped Cyan’s cheeks out of rage, Ancilla truly loved her children.
As such, she couldn’t allow her children to live with the label of a concubine’s child for the rest of their lives.
After she had given so much, just to get to this point…

‘All the insults and disgrace I have suffered have only brought me closer to the position that I crave.’

Cyan and Ciel were still young.
The twins were able to act so recklessly and get their way within the main estate all because Ancilla had refused to pay any attention to the insults and instead stood proudly as the Second Madam of the direct Lionheart line, sheltering her children in the process.

That was why her son’s loss had hurt so much.
Getting defeated by a collateral descendant after having inherited the legitimate bloodline as a member of the direct line…

‘…Still, I’d prefer…,’ Ancilla sighed again, a complicated look on her face. ‘If that boy named Eugene were the first to break through the labyrinth.’

If that were to happen, it would lead to an unexpected stalemate.
The entire main family would be forced to suffer a disgrace, but now the shame of having lost to Eugene would no longer be borne solely by Cyan and Ancilla.
The Patriarch, Gilead, and the First Wife, Tanis, would also share in this embarrassment.

On the other hand, Eugene breaking through the labyrinth could even alleviate the impact of his victory over Cyan.
It would no longer mean that Cyan was lacking but that the collateral lines’ Eugene was suspiciously exceptional.

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‘….Although the optimal outcome would be if Cyan and Ciel were the ones to break through the labyrinth.’

Ancilla released yet another sigh and got up from her seat.

‘If they can’t do that… It would be better if the one who breaks through the maze is Eugene, rather than Eward or any other kid.’

Of course, this was just a thought.
Ancilla had no desire to actually cheer for Eugene.
She was only thinking about the best possible results for herself and her children.

* * *

Four days later, the children staying at the annex received a message from the main family.
Since the preparation to summon a labyrinth into the forest had finally been completed, the message announced that the Bloodline Continuation Ceremony would begin today and formally requested their presence at the starting location.

According to the message, they were allowed to wear casual attire, but any other privately prepared items were forbidden.
Then what about their weapons? Most of the children harbored such concerns, but they did what they were told and followed the knights into the forest.

“I’ll be preparing the weapons for you,” Lovellian explained when they arrived.

Both Lovellian and Gilead had been waiting for them inside the forest.
Behind them stood the towering entrance to a cave that looked both suspicious and artificial upon close glance.

“Just tell me what weapons you need.
Although they won’t last for the whole day, children, remember that you’ll be fighting illusions, not real foes.
You should be able to fight with them as long as your weapons retain their proper shapes, right children?” Lovellian said all this with a friendly smile.

Eugene hated being addressed with the word ‘children’ more than anything else.
After all, wasn’t that treating him as a kid? However, since his body was, in reality, that of a child, he couldn’t openly express his dissatisfaction.

“Is there only one choice of weapon?” Ciel questioned Lovellian with a bright smile.

“Not at all.
I can prepare whatever you need,” Lovellian promised.

“How are you going to do that?”

With a smile for how cute Ciel’s wide-eyed look of curiosity was, Lovellian raised both hands while looking at her.

“Like this,” he said.

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Whoosh!

Streams of soil rose from the ground and formed clumps between Lovellian’s palms.
In only moments, a long sword had been shaped from these clumps of dirt.

“Wow!” came a collective exclamation.

Ciel caught the sword sent flying towards her with both hands.
The weight was just right, and the feel of the grip wasn’t bad either.
As if curious about its quality, Ciel tried swinging the sword a few times.

“What should I do if it breaks?” she asked.

“Haha.
Little lady, you don’t need to worry about that.
This man in front of you is an amazing wizard.
Not only was that labyrinth over there summoned by my magic, but the sword that you, little miss, are holding will never break while you’re inside of the labyrinth.

“Apart from swords, can you make animals as well?”

“I can make dolls, and golems are also within my purview… but I can’t make anything that’s truly living.”

“If that’s the case, then can I go inside with a golem you’ve created?”

“That’s quite the cunning idea.”

Lovellian burst out laughing and turned to look at Gilead.
Gilead, who was smiling at his daughter’s request, slowly shook his head.

Gilead denied her request, “We can’t have you doing that.
Won’t that just be the golem fighting instead of you?”

“Then please make me a doll next time,” Ciel begged with a wide smile.

Eward’s eyes were shining as he looked at the light covering Lovellian’s hand.

“Why can't you create anything living?” he asked abruptly.

Lovellian turned to look at Eward, who had a fascinated expression on his face, at this question.

“That’s because it’s a taboo of magic,” Lovellian explained.

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“A taboo?”

“Not only is true life difficult to make but there’s also nothing good to be had from making it.
Giving birth to a living creature is a beautiful miracle of existence, and not so easily replicated.”

“Ah….” Eward nodded his head as if he understood what Lovellian was trying to say.

“Mister, I don’t want this one.
Could I get a sword that’s a little longer and a lot thinner, please?” Ciel interrupted their impromptu lesson.

“Now, now, please hold on a moment.
While I can make a weapon for everyone individually, it will be difficult for me if I have to keep changing the sword bit by bit so that it looks exactly like how you envision it in your head, young lady.”

Lovellian held a hand up to Ciel.
Then a bright strand of light shot over to her from his hand.

“As such, young lady, why don’t I allow you to sculpt it yourself.
That goes for the rest of you children as well.
It isn’t difficult.
After all, I’ll be casting the magic, so all everyone else needs to do is to clearly picture in their head what type of weapon that they want and then touch the light.”

Strands of light shot out and connected to each of the nine children.
Eward’s fingertips trembled as he looked at the light with ecstatic eyes.

“Whoah…!” Gargith exclaimed.

He had envisioned the greatsword that he regularly used when he was back home.
Miraculously, everything was just as he remembered; even the familiar weight had been replicated.
While hanging the sword over his shoulder, he kept bursting out in admiration.

Dezra also made a spear that was identical to the one she used most often during training.
While lingering on the feel of the spear as she held it in her hands, she thrust the spear several times into thin air.
Then she hung the spear across her back with a satisfied look on her face.

Ciel and Cyan both made swords.
Ciel’s sword appeared long and thin; while Cyan’s sword was the same length, it looked slightly heavier.

Eward made an ordinary sword.
His eyes that had been shining brilliantly as he stroked the light instantly sank into their usual dim state the moment that Eward was left holding a sword instead.

Although the dropouts were also making their weapons, Eugene didn’t pay any attention to them.
Those guys had shown no motivation on their way in.
They would probably give up on the challenge as soon as they had entered the labyrinth.

Eugene made a sword that fit with the length of his arm and also created a small shield to be worn on his left forearm.

“Why didn’t you make a spear? You’re good with a spear, after all,” Dezra asked petulantly.

“I’m also good with a sword,” Eugene replied back confidently.

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“And what’s with the shield?”

“I’m also good with the shield.”

“Why don’t you just say that you’re good with everything?” Dezra grumbled.

Ciel stared at the two of them as they shared a conversation before approaching Eugene.
“If we meet in the maze, what are you going to do?”

“What do you mean, ‘what am I going to do?’”

“Are you going to fight me?”

“Are we allowed to fight?” Eugene turned to Gilead and asked.

“There’s nothing to stop you, since the purpose of the Bloodline Continuation Ceremony is competition,” Gilead replied with a grin.

At these words, Ciel puffed up her cheeks.
“However, we don’t absolutely need to fight,” Ciel protested.

Gilead nodded, “That’s right.
Rather than a straight competition between the participants, in this Bloodline Continuation Ceremony, I’ll be looking for the ability to make accurate judgments based on the situation and the spirit of cooperation.
After all, aren’t we all part of a family that shares the name Lionheart?”

“He says that we’re family,” Ciel said as she turned back to Eugene with a small smile.
“When is your birthday?”

“September.”

“Mine is in April.
That means I’m your big sister.”

“What bu—” —llshit are you spouting? Eugene was about to say that before remembering that Ciel’s father, Gilead, was still here.

“…You have such a cunning tongue,” Eugene complained.

“What do you mean?” Ciel asked.

“It’s nothing,” Eugene replied with a cough and turned his head away.

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