Chapter 52.1: The Fairy Tale (1)

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Gion couldn’t help but feel distressed.

He had known about the Knights of the Black Lion since childhood.
Not only had he heard the rumors surrounding them, but he had also met a few of them.
While still in his youth, he had given up on competing for the seat of the Patriarch and had instead wandered the world.
During his travels, he had once stayed at Black Lion Castle, which was found in the depths of Mouth Uklas.

‘They’re definitely… necessary.’

The Lionheart clan was one of the most prestigious families on the entire continent.
Not only that, by maintaining its bizarre tradition, it had greatly increased its size, and at the center of this gigantic Lionheart clan stood the main family.
To keep this position, the main family couldn’t help but require people dedicated to doing rough and dirty work.

The Lionheart clan wasn’t the only one that raised these kinds of ‘hunting hounds.’

‘…But Ciel.’

Gion didn’t feel any qualms about becoming a member of the Knights of the Black Lion.
This was something he had decided on for himself, and he wanted to help his brother, the Patriarch, even if it meant stepping into the darkness.
Moreover, since Gilead’s ambition went against the strict adherence to tradition that the Council insisted on, by becoming a Black Lion, Gion hoped to serve as a bridge between the Council and the main family.

Whether it was dirty or cruel jobs, tasks that might get blood on his hands, Gion would do whatever it took if he was required to do these sorts of things.
It wasn’t for the sake of the Lionheart clan but for the sake of his brother, the Patriarch, and also his family.

Gion believed it was enough for him to be the only one to take on such a role.
As for Ciel, that little niece of his, he didn’t want her to set foot into this kind of business.
He wasn’t sure what Ciel desired for herself, but as for Gion… he wanted his niece, who had been following him around and calling him uncle since she was a snot-nosed toddler, to live a peaceful life free from the scent of blood.

It wasn’t just Ciel.
Cyan, Eugene… and Eward as well.
Gion hadn’t gotten married nor had children and saw each of his nephews and niece as one of his own.

‘…Eward.
Why on earth would you turn to black magic…?’

“Gion,” a voice called out.

While he was in the middle of thinking such bitter thoughts, Carmen suddenly spoke up as she walked in front of him.

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“Do you regret joining the Knights of the Black Lion?” she asked him.

“…How could I? It’s not like that, Lady Carmen,” Gion replied with a wry smile.

Just like how Gion had been looking after Gilead’s children since they were young, Carmen had also watched over Gion’s childhood.
Just a few decades ago, Carmen had still been living at the main estate while a young Gion had trailed after her while calling her his aunt.

His wanderlust was also something that he had caught from Carmen.

“This kind of work doesn’t happen very often,” she reminded him.
“Although you should already be well aware of this.”

“Yes, ma’am,” Gion acknowledged the reminder.

Tasks that required someone on a captain’s level to attend to them personally were uncommon.
Most of the champions who led the Knights of the Black Lion rarely left Black Lion Castle.

The current issue of the Patriarch’s eldest son attempting to learn black magic was serious enough that it required a captain of the Knights of the Black Lion to make a move.

“So, what do you think the truth of this matter is?” Carmen asked for his opinion.

Gion hesitantly admitted, “…It feels like the Black Tower Master wasn’t involved.
Instead, it appears to be as he said… someone on the sidelines is attempting to stir up strife.”

“Amelia Merwin,” Carmen abruptly spat out the name.
“I suspect that it’s her.
She’s also someone who wants to keep Balzac Ludbeth in check.
The Demon King of Incarceration isn’t known for suppressing the free will of the black wizards he contracted with.
He also doesn’t interfere with every one of his subordinates’ squabbles.”

“If Amelia was the mastermind of this plot, wouldn’t that mean that Nahama is behind this?” 

“Lately, Nahama’s movements have been suspicious.
Sultan Alabur is a young piglet with a lot of ambition.
He’ll probably declare war within the next few years.”

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War — this word caused Gion’s eyes to grow cold.
The Desert Kingdom of Nahama had long aspired to be called an empire.

Gion questioned, “Are you saying they’ll go to war with Kiehl?”

“They’ll probably hit Turas first,” Carmen corrected him.

The Kiehl Empire shared a border with Nahama.
The relationship between the two countries wasn’t hostile, but Nahama frequently quarreled with its western neighbor, the Kingdom of Turas.

“Even though they probably don’t have a casus belli?” Gion asked curiously.

“If they need a casus belli, they can just somehow create one.
But if Nahama attacks Turas, Kiehl will also need to prepare for war.
Of course, as part of these ‘preparations,’ the Lionheart clan will also be called up,” Carmen speculated.

“So preempting that, Amelia made the first move to create division within the Lionheart clan.
Is that what you think?”

“Even if this doesn’t lead to any division, it’s planted a seed for it.
In any case, like what the late Gavid confessed, it might just be a crime of impulse without any conspiracy behind it.
However… we can't be sure of that.
That’s why we need to be suspicious.” Carmen narrowed her eyes and continued, “I heard that Eward doesn’t even know anything about Gavid.
When I saw him in his childhood, I thought Eward seemed pretty smart.
Could it be that the Patriarch doesn’t have the qualifications to teach his own children?”

Gion sighed, “…He just wanted to believe in his children.”

“A whip for the horse, a bridle for a donkey, and a rod for the back of fools. Though it’s pointless to say such things now that it’s come to this.
Instead of the eldest heir, Eward, it looks like the next Patriarch will be Cyan,” having said this, Carmen turned to look at the prison they had just left.
“…Gion.
Hypothetically, what would have happened if we hadn’t overlooked Balzac’s provocation back there?”

“It would have caused quite the crisis,” Gion dutifully concluded.

“Don’t point out something so obvious.
I’m asking if we could have killed him?”

“…I don’t think what he said was an insult deserving of death.
From the perspective of the Black Tower Master, he also had reason to feel upset.
But… if we had to fight him, apart from you, the rest of us would have died in there.”

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“You’re being too modest.”

“I’m not that good at fighting with wizards,” Gion replied with an awkward smile.

“Just like you, I also lacked enough confidence.
That’s why I didn’t get into a fight,” Carmen admitted with a click of her tongue as she pulled out her pocket watch. 

It was slowly getting closer to the time when they had arranged to meet.
Gion recalled Ciel, whom he had told to meet with them back in front of the warp gate.

“…Are we really going to take Ciel back with us to Black Lion Castle?” Gion asked reluctantly.

Carmen simply pointed out, “Isn’t that what the child wants?”

“…,” Gion couldn’t argue with that.

“Don’t overly smother a child who has already grown up so much.”

There was a short silence.
Then Gion shook his head to cast off these complicated feelings.

“About Eugene Lionheart, what do you think of him?” Carmen suddenly brought up this question.

However, Gion immediately replied without any surprise, “I’m sure that you’ve already heard all about him.”

“Of course, I’ve heard about him.
Four years ago, when the Patriarch said he would take in that child as an adopted son, and when Gilead said he would open the main family’s treasure vault to him, do you know just how noisy the Council got?” Carmen demanded.

“It certainly must have been a headache,” Gion sympathized.

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Carmen complained, “The Council had already been in an uproar due to the Bloodline Continuation Ceremony.
Because the outcome was unprecedented.”

“But it was worth it,” Gion stated with satisfaction.

In Gion’s view, Eugene was an outrageous monster.

For the past four years, Gion had taught him various combat techniques based on his swordsmanship, but… to be honest, Gion couldn’t be sure if he had really taught Eugene anything.

‘It was like he already knew how to do everything.’

According to Gion’s intuition, what made Eugene truly great wasn’t his mana sensitivity or his quick progress in the White Flame Formula.

His true talent was that no matter what weapon he held in his hand, Eugene could wield it skillfully.
Not just at the level of being a proficient wielder, but with the skill of a true master.
His techniques did not resemble those passed down by a prestigious family and instead pursued practicality above all else.

Eugene couldn’t have learned such a style from anyone else.
No masters of such skill existed in Gidol, Eugene’s hometown.
Could it be that Gerhard was really hiding his power? But something like that was absurd. 

Everything that Eugene had was something he had honed by himself.
He had an instinct for battle that was unbelievable for someone of his age. 

Gion had also sparred with Eugene several times.
Without drawing on their mana, they had contested purely in terms of skill.
Yet Gion had never once felt like he could overwhelm Eugene.
No, instead, there were several times when he felt like he was being carried along by Eugene’s rhythm.

But that was… something he couldn’t accept, nor did he want to accept.
To be carried along by Eugene’s rhythm? That meant… that instead of Gion, it was the much younger Eugene who was overwhelming him in terms of technique.

“If only that child wasn’t from a collateral line, everyone would have supported him becoming the next Patriarch,” Carmen’s words weren’t simply meant to evaluate Eugene.

Gion felt the blatant inquiry hidden in her gaze and responded, “…That child has no desire to become the Patriarch.
In a way, he resembles both myself and you, Lady Carmen.”

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