As Eugene headed out to face the minotaur, no hesitation or nervousness could be seen in his stride. Could it be because the minotaur was so minor an opponent that such feelings werent needed In any case, Eugene had yet to train his mana, so the magic circle didnt change anything.
Not being able to use mana while fighting against such a large monster was quite an inconvenient problem, but it wasnt enough of a cause for Eugene to hesitate. In his previous life, before he had ever learned the use of mana, he had fought countless trolls, ogres, and such like.
Compared to them, this minotaur was nothing to be wary of. On top of the fact that it wasnt even a real monster, judging by its movements, it seemed to be weaker than an actual minotaur. It definitely had had its level lowered to be an appropriate opponent for children.
‘I guess Ill just have to pay attention in case my weapon breaks.
Until now, no matter how roughly he had used it, his sword hadnt even chipped, but now things were obviously different. Was it because they wanted to know if the participants were capable of responding flexibly to unexpected situations Or perhaps it was because they wanted to see what kind of skills and talents they might be keeping in reserve…
Whatever their reasons might be, this suited Eugene fine. After all, hadnt this given him the chance to see the main family eat crow, just as hed planned In fact, he could have succeeded in his plan to embarrass the main family just by defeating the Minotaur right away and ending the Bloodline Continuation Ceremony all by himself. Still, thanks to a little patience, he had also gotten the chance to see Cyan humiliated.
‘While all this proves that the Patriarch is an upright guy….
His sons personality was quite a mess. Before it was too late, Cyan needed to get that dog-** attitude beaten out of him, otherwise he would never get better. Eugene was convinced of the necessity of some physical education.
Even if Gilead, the Patriarch, had turned out to be an okay guy, his son was still a bastard. Moreover, since Cyan was already such a bastard at his age, he might become even more of a bastard going forward.
As such, even if it was just for Gileads sake, Cyans character needed to be physically corrected, and Eugene was happy to volunteer.
‘Although it might not be enough with just one or two beatings.
Well, it wasnt like this was Eugenes responsibility. Gilead would probably take care of it once he found out the full scale of the problem.
“Hm,” Eugene hummed in thought.
He had already determined the range in which the minotaur was set to react. Standing just outside that line, he stared at the minotaur. Although Cyan had slashed it several times, the Minotaur seemed perfectly fine.
‘If thats the case, then….
Eugene smiled as he stepped forward. Just like that, he entered the minotaurs reactionary range.
‘…How shall I go about defeating it
The minotaur responded immediately. Moving its large body with surprising speed, it charged at Eugene. Unlike Dezra and Cyan, Eugene did not rush forward, but he didnt move out of the minotaurs range either.
The minotaurs large fist flew towards him. Before the attack had even been flung, Eugene had already predicted what course the attack would take. There were manyclues to be seen on the minotaurs giant body. From the way its fingers clenched to the movement of its elbows and shoulders, and even the twitching of its muscles, all of this could be used to deduce a prediction.
The minotaurs fist slamming into the ground overlapped with the movement of Eugenes sword. To strengthen the force of his slash, he counter-slashed the descending arm, aiming for the inside of the minotaurs elbow. The joints where its skin folded were an inevitable weak point in its tough leather hide, and the tendons there werent as thick as its arm muscles.
Of course, it wasnt easy to time such a slash. However, Eugene made the cut look easy. He was familiar with wielding a sword in such a surgical manner from his previous life. Moreover, Eugenes current body was overwhelmingly superior to Hamels body when it was his age.
Right from birth, there had been an innate difference between the two. And Eugene had continued to refine and develop this difference over the course of several years.
So he wasnt allowed to use mana Why should that matter Even without mana, his young body was extremely agile.
The minotaur let out a roar. Although his elbow was too thick to have been cut through completely, the tendon there was very sensitive to pain because it was densely packed with nerves. Even if it wasnt completely severed, that was still enough to make the pain seem unbearable.
Its huge arm muscles were now left dangling uselessly, and the minotaurs reactions were slowed from shock. Without any hesitation, Eugene hopped onto the minotaurs arm. Then he started to sprint.
It was easy to run up the minotaurs massive arm with his small childs body. Within moments, he had reached the minotaurs shoulders.
Of course, the minotaur wasnt going to just stay still. It immediately twisted its body and swung its shoulders around as he ran up. However, Eugene was also experienced with running on unstable footing. And in the first place, this cheat body had been born with an innate sense of balance.
Even with its body swaying randomly, Eugene continued to close in on the minotaurs head until its huge horns were tossing through the air right in front of him. Pausing to get the timing right, Eugene reached out his hand.
Eugenes hand caught the minotaurs horn. Since he had been able to swing a sword completely wrapped in heavy sandbags, it was effortless for him to support his whole weight with just one arm. Eugene tightened his grip on the horn and pulled himself up. Just like that, he had climbed on top of the minotaurs head.
The minotaur raised its remaining mobile hand. It tried to catch Eugene, who was hanging from its head, but the speed with which Eugene thrust his sword was faster than its grasping fingers could clutch.
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The long sword plunged into the minotaurs ear. The sword stabbed in so deeply that it even managed to reach the minotaurs semicircular canal. The minotaurs body soon started shaking violently as it lost its balance, and its wildly swinging hand couldnt even get close to touching Eugene. Then, unable to bear it any longer, the minotaur fell down onto its tail.
For his next move, Eugene pulled out his sword and thrust it back into the minotaurs left eye. The minotaur released a terrible scream of pain. Eugene twisted his deeply impaled sword a few times before drawing it back out. Then he stabbed with his sword once again, this time into its right eye. Although the minotaur had squeezed its eye shut defensively, Eugenes sword pierced right through the thin eyelid.
The minotaurs hand swung upwards, but it missed Eugene completely and slapped its own blameless forehead instead. Due to its rage and panic, it had put too much force into the blow. The minotaurs head snapped backward abruptly, but this was a good opportunity for Eugene. He fell back down onto the minotaurs shoulders and, thanks to the Minotaurs raised chin, Eugene had a clear line of sight to its throbbing carotid artery.
Once, twice, thrice, Eugene focused all three of his swings onto one location. With the second blow, he neatly sliced through its leather hide, and with the third, he had reached the blood vessel. Then, with a few more blows on top of that….
Blood began spurting out violently. Eugene blocked the spray of blood with the shield on his left arm and continued to thrust his sword into the open wound.
Soon the minotaur fell silent as its life bled out of it. It continued the rest of its fall to the ground, slowly collapsing backward onto the cave floor. But before it could fall completely, Eugene lightly leaped off it and landed on the ground once more.
“Phew,” Eugene sighed in satisfaction at a job well done.
Although he had tried to block it with his shield, so much blood had sprayed out that both his hair and face had gotten drenched in it. Eugene roughly wiped off most of the blood before turning his head to face his audience, Cyan, Ciel, and Dezra, who were staring in his direction with their mouths wide open. Then, while grinning at Cyan specifically, Eugene pointed at the minotaurs corpse.
“You saw that, right”
“…Uh…” Cyan mumbled blankly.
“I killed it,” Eugene boasted proudly.
Cyan didnt know how to react. He knew that Eugenes words were meant to rile him up, but after seeing something like that occur right before his eyes, he just couldnt muster up any outrage. Cyan was sure that he definitely wasnt able to do what Eugene had just done.
But what if… what if he had been able to use sword-light If that had been the case, he was sure that he could have killed the minotaur. However, he still wouldnt have been able to accomplish it as easily as Eugene had.
Cyan was beginning to feel an unfamiliar emotion whenever his thoughts turned to center on this country bumpkin. It was similar to fear, but it brought with it an excitement in his chest that made it feel different from fear. The thirteen-year-old Cyan had yet to understand that this emotion wasawe.
“…Oh,” Eugene released a small sigh of surprise as he looked down at his own body.
The bloody smell had disappeared in an instant. The minotaurs corpse that was lying right next to him, as well as the walls and the ceilings that had enclosed them from all sides, also started to disappear. His damp hair was dried back to a fluffy state as if it had never been wet in the first place, and the sword and the shield he was holding in his hands faded and then vanished into thin air.
The Bloodline Continuation Ceremony was over.
* * *
Both Gilead and Lovellian were left speechless. Everything up to the point where Dezra and Cyan had been defeated was something that they had predicted.
In the first place, they had known that it wouldnt be an easy challenge for children to hunt the minotaur.
Wasnt that why Gilead had told them in advance that in this years Bloodline Continuation Ceremony he wouldnt just be considering their individual performance, but their abilities to quickly make situational judgments and their cooperative spirit as well
He had wanted to see if they would retain the will to fight despite numerous setbacks. If the children had agreed to work together, it wasnt impossible for them to defeat the monster. And once theyd caught the minotaurs attention, it was also possible to slowly draw it out of the magic circles range. As long as the children didnt rush in impulsively, they could have tried out a few different methods until they finally succeeded, or at least… that was the way they had intended for the minotaur to be defeated.
Although his plans had been completely overturned, Gilead didnt feel any frustration. Instead, he burst out laughing with a broad smile on his face.
“Isnt he amazing” Gilead commented as he pointed to Eugene. “That kid, hes just a collateral descendant who hasnt even trained his mana, but he was able to defeat the minotaur through sheer overwhelming skill.
“…That…seems to be the case,” Lovellian slowly picked up his jaw off the ground before replying.
Everything in that labyrinth had been created by Lovellian, both the traps and the monsters. He hadnt made them too difficult so that they could match the childrens levels… but that child named Eugene had broken through the labyrinth with much more ease than Lovellian had expected.
Lovellian felt the need to ask, “…That child…just what on earth is he”
“I dont know either,” Gilead shook his head, still laughing. “That childs father is apparently named Gerhard Lionheart, from the Gidol Province. Hes from a collateral line thats been separated from the main line for around two hundred years now, but, as far as I know, not a single member of that family has ever drawn any attention until now.”
“But… how could such an exceptional child come from such…”
“Who knows. He says that he wasnt taught by his father or any other knight, but—” Gilead burst out laughing before he could finish the sentence. “But his potential is indescribable. They say that that child, Eugene, since he has first arrived at the main estate, has gone to the gymnasium every day to repeat the same harsh training daily. Ive also sent a man to Gidol, and he reports that Eugenes extreme training is well-known throughout the whole estate.”
Eugene was a child who had defeated his son in a duel, so Gilead couldnt help but have an interest in him. That was why he had sent a knight to the Lionheart family estate in Gidol to ask about Eugene. The man had reported that Eugene had first started going to the gymnasium every day when he turned five; and when he turned seven, he started swinging a wooden sword with an iron core that had been steadily increasing in weight over time.
“That boy was born to be a warrior, and he also has an innate hard-working character that is worthy of such a physique. Even if it was just by unearthing such a jewel in the rough… this years Bloodline Continuation Ceremony will prove to be of great significance.”
“But arent you even the slightest bit displeased” Lovellian asked in genuine curiosity. “My apologies if I cause any offense, but that child… has outshone all of your own children, Lord Gilead. If theres already such a difference between them, once that child begins training his mana…. And if he also happens to have an equally great talent for handling mana….”
“If that happens to be the case, isnt that something to celebrate” Gilead replied with a grin. “After all, doesnt that childs name happen to be Lionheart That means the more extraordinary that boy is, the more he makes the name of Lionheart shine brightly.”
“…But what if that child reveals any ambitions for usurping the direct line” Lovellion asked bluntly, after being unable to think of a way to soften the blow.
However, Gilead didnt feel at all offended by such a question.
“That isnt something for me to be concerned about,” Gilead answered sincerely. “Only the very best among the Lionhearts has the right to become the Lionheart Patriarch. If my children fail to keep the position of Patriarch, that would just mean that they were too weak to keep a hold of their birthright. If that was all the strength that they had to offer, they wouldnt deserve to be the Lionheart Patriarch in the first place.”
“Hm….” Lovellian pondered.
“Of course, before I am the Patriarch, I am also their father; and as their father, I will guide my children to become the best that they can be. If that is still not enough… then it cant be helped.” Gilead shrugged in defeat.
“As an outsider, my apologies for bringing up something that wasnt my place to address,” Lovellian nodded slowly in understanding and waved his hands as the labyrinth started to disappear. “However, Lord Gilead, as an old acquaintance, I feel that I must advise you. If at all possible, you must adopt that child.”
“…Adoption” Gilead asked in confusion.
“Yes. A collateral descendent has finally overturned the main family in a Bloodline Continuation Ceremony. That alone would make many of the Lionhearts collateral lines look down on the main family. If that happens, some of those dissatisfied with the current system may start to join forces.”
“…” Gilead was silent for a moment. The Lionheart name had been passed down for over three hundred years. A multitude of collateral lines had been born due to their inheritance practices.
Each collateral family was founded by someone born with the bloodline of the direct line but had lost the competition to become the Patriarch. There were definitely a few among these collateral lines who harbored dissatisfaction against the main family.
“…The Guardians are responsible for enforcing the familys laws,” Gilead muttered with a bitter smile.
While thoroughly forbidding any dynastic disputes, the Lionheart Guardians also suppressed any rebellious individuals.
“I thank you for your advice. As for an adoption… I think its an attractive proposition,” Gilead finished.
To be honest, the boy was so outstanding that Gilead had wished Eugene was his own son. Also, it seemed like being adopted would be better for the childs future as well.
If Eugene just returned to Gidol like this… the seditious families who plotted to rebel against the main family might try to contact him. And if that happened, that young child with a brilliant talent might even be kidnapped because of his gifts.
‘…If I keep the boy by my side… He could also be a great motivator to my children.
The more he thought about it, the more appealing the idea was. And wouldnt it make for an incredible sight when the childs potential was allowed to fully bloom in the still distant future At that time, if Eugene still proved to be overwhelmingly superior to the children of the main family, then….
Not only would his adoption be good for the main family, but it would also be a happy event for the Lionhearts as a whole.
“…Well, before that, the celebrations have to come first,” Gilead mumbled as he turned his head.
Both the labyrinth and the cave leading to it had disappeared. The children were looking at their surroundings with surprised expressions, having yet to understand their situation.
“…Haaagh!” Gargith, who had been lying on the floor, jumped to his feet with a gasp.
Following his battle with the troll, he had started heading towards the center, but he had used up the last of his strength on the way there and had collapsed into slumber. However, as the magic dissipated, all of his injuries also disappeared.
“What about the boss monster” Gargith asked.
“Its dead,” Dezra spat out as she looked at Gargith with scornful eyes.
“Who killed it” he asked.
“I did,” Eugene answered with a grin.
1. A sensory organ needed to regulate the balance and convey head position. ☜