In this world, there existed a few taboos.

    Long ago, when dragons imparted magic to humans, they imposed certain taboos along with it. Among them was the stipulation that ‘one must not use magic to willfully alter the form bestowed by the gods.’ Thus, the magic Azar had used fell under these taboos. Moreover, as it was magic that essentially did not exist in this world, no one knew if the forbidden magic mentioned only in literature truly existed. Even Azar himself did not know such a thing existed in the world until he witnessed it firsthand.

    If it didn’t exist, how could one use it? That was precisely thanks to the ring Azar was wearing. It seemed that although the dragons had declared it taboo for humans, it did not apply to themselves, so they had created such a ring. And Azar had been fortunate enough to obtain it two years ago while aiding Ali. The long reuse time was a flaw, but from his perspective, it was a truly useful magical tool.

    Anyhow, even if it was magic channeled through a magical tool, there was no way Nathan, a mage himself, could fail to notice it upon seeing it with his own eyes. Azar swallowed the sigh that threatened to escape and looked at Nathan.

    “Ah, what the…”

    However, despite Azar’s appearance suddenly changing before his eyes, Nathan merely uttered those words. Rather, as soon as he realized the stranger was Azar, he seemed to deflate, slumping to the ground as if his strength had drained away. Grasping his wand as if it were a crutch, he raised his head, his face filled with the usual goodwill. It inexplicably stirred Azar’s emotions.

    “…Why are you here?”

    “That’s what I should be asking.”

    Azar retorted, crossing his arms. Once again recalling the current situation, his tone naturally grew curt. Who was saying such things to whom? Anyone could see that the one who shouldn’t be here was not himself, but undoubtedly Nathan.

    “Why are you really here? You, who should be lying still in bed, why are you in this heavy downpour, in this rugged mountain without a single light?”

    However, instead of answering his question, Nathan abruptly sprang to his feet in surprise.

    “Ah! Now’s not the time for this. Azar!”

    With those words, he grabbed Azar’s arm and pulled him along. Azar took a few steps, following Nathan with a perplexed feeling, and there lay a person.

    No, not an ordinary person. The animal ears protruding from his head and the tail sticking out from his rear revealed that this man was a beastkin.

    The unconscious man’s body was covered in wounds, as if he had been mauled by a beast. Was he even still alive? It wouldn’t be surprising if he were already dead, given his condition. That was why Azar had not immediately noticed the presence of someone other than the two of them.

    “He’s not dead yet. Not dead.”

    For a moment, Azar couldn’t tell if Nathan was speaking to him or to himself. Then, Nathan turned to Azar and spoke urgently.

    “Let’s talk later and get down from the mountain first. This person is still breathing. So there’s still a chance to save him! Please, help…!”

    With those words, Nathan bent down, attempting to carry the man on his back. He tried to wrap the man’s limp arms around his neck and lift him, but it didn’t look promising. The man was about the same height as Nathan, and he was also well-built. Azar momentarily doubted whether Nathan could manage to carry such a person. So he calmly dissuaded Nathan.

    “There’s no need for that.”

    “What?”

    Azar laid the man Nathan had been trying to carry back on the ground, knelt in front of him, and reached out to the dying man.

    “Right now, I’ll be of more help.”

    As he finished speaking, a dazzling golden light shimmered from Azar’s fingertips. That radiant aura, which even appeared sacred, settled over the wounds, and divine power quickly spread throughout the man’s entire body. The man’s torn and ripped parts began to rapidly heal from within. The damaged internal organs regained their form, broken bones mended, muscles regenerated over them, and new flesh sprouted.

    ‘Fortunately, he’s someone responsive to divine power.’

    As he healed the man’s wounds, Azar thoroughly examined his appearance. Upon realizing that the man’s attire and general appearance closely matched what Luce had described, Azar nearly let out a sigh. What a coincidence this was.

    ‘Come to think of it, I was so preoccupied with searching within the village that I neglected to check the outskirts…’

    What would have happened if Azar had failed to discover the two of them and had descended the mountain with Lila?

    Nathan would have undoubtedly tried to carry this man down the mountain, just as he had attempted earlier. He probably thought that if he took the man to the temple or a doctor, he could be saved. However, in Azar’s opinion, it was already too late. The wounds were too severe. Moreover, the pouring rain would have sapped much of his body heat, and the exposed wounds could have become infected. Thus, the man would have died before reaching any destination.

    Azar glanced at Nathan. He was staring at Azar’s hands with a pale face, unable to look away. Even now, he was fidgeting anxiously. If this man had truly died… If the expectation that he could be saved had been shattered… It was evident, even without seeing it, how distressed Nathan would have been in the future.

    ‘It’s fortunate that such a thing didn’t happen.’

    Azar sincerely thought so.

    Plop, plop…

    Raindrops falling from above tickled his nose. The rainfall showed no sign of stopping, only intensifying as time passed. The only consolation was that they were currently under a lush tree, which provided some shelter from the rain. Once the man’s wounds had completely healed and his faint heartbeat had grown strong, Azar withdrew his divine power.

    “Is it done? Is it over?”

    As if asking but not really expecting Azar’s answer, Nathan hastily placed his hand under the man’s nose to check. Not satisfied with that, he pressed his ear against the man’s chest to confirm if his heart was beating properly. Seeing this, Azar felt somewhat dumbfounded. Did he perhaps have a close relationship with this person? Nathan’s reaction seemed a bit excessive, enough to raise such a question.

    “Thank goodness.”

    However, the way he said those words made it seem like he truly felt relieved, so Azar remained silent. The tension drained from his face, and a smile bloomed on his lips.

    Watching Nathan like that, Azar suddenly remembered Lila, whom he had forgotten about. The man’s wounds were so severe that it had taken longer than expected. If he had known, he should have sent Lila ahead first. A twinge of guilt crept up on him, thinking of Lila still waiting alone in the thicket. But he couldn’t return to Lila in his current state.

    Azar let out a groan, scratching his head in a troubled manner, and Nathan’s gaze turned to him.

    “What’s wrong?”

    “Ah, well… There’s someone who came with me waiting behind.”

    At those words, Nathan blinked for a moment and then offered the robe he was wearing to Azar.

    “Wear this. It’ll be fine if you pull the hood down too.”

    As if understanding Azar’s concern, Nathan spoke in a calm manner. Azar couldn’t help but hesitate. Of course, given his situation, where his identity as a member of the royal family would be easily revealed, he should accept the robe Nathan offered. However, with the robe removed, Nathan’s clothing appeared somewhat thin, and the thought, ‘What if Nathan catches a cold?’ suddenly crossed his mind, making him falter. Then, his gaze inadvertently drifted to Nathan’s hands, which had come closer to offer the robe. There were handkerchiefs tied around Nathan’s palms.

    “…What happened to your hands?”

    “Ah, I got a bit scraped. It’s nothing.”

    It was dubious how he had managed to scrape both hands, but Nathan didn’t say more. Instead, he stood up, wrapped the robe around Azar’s shoulders to secure it, and even pulled the hood over his head. Then, scratching his cheek awkwardly, he said,

    “Um, could you carry that person too? I thought I could lift him earlier, but now it seems a bit difficult…”

    “I never intended to ask you to carry him from the beginning.”

    Azar chuckled at those words. Truly, even without Nathan saying so, he had already planned to hoist the man onto his back. Azar effortlessly lifted the man and rose to his feet.

    “Let’s go. It would be great if this lasts until we descend the mountain…”

    Nathan muttered, gazing at the floating orb of light in the air. It had shrunk considerably from when they first saw it, now only the size of Nathan’s fist. Thus, the two hurried to leave that place.

    “You’re late!”

    When they returned to where Lila was waiting, the thoroughly frightened Lila couldn’t help but shout at Azar.

    “…What’s with the entourage you brought back?! Why are you wearing that thing? And who’s the person on your back?! Is he dead?!”

    “Haha, Lila, calm down. Well, that’s how it turned out. And this person isn’t dead. I’m sorry for making you wait so long.”

    “Let’s head down for now.”

    Nathan interjected between the two. A compass had appeared in his hand at some point. Following Nathan’s lead, they were able to descend the mountain faster than expected. Just then, the orb of light flickered and disappeared. Darkness enveloped their surroundings once again, but lamps were lit here and there, and many houses had their lights on, so it wasn’t too dark.

    “Phew, we finally made it down! Thanks to this, I’ve learned the lesson that no matter how much money is offered, climbing a mountain in this weather is a no-go! Here, take it!”

    With those words, Lila shoved the basket into Nathan’s hands, who was slowly exhaling with his hand on his chest. Since Azar’s hands were occupied, she handed it to Nathan. Brushing her hands off, Lila turned to Azar and said,

    “Now, will you give me the remaining amount?”

    “Ah, it’s in my pocket…”

    No free hands. With a person on his back, Azar had no hands to spare, so he shrugged his shoulders, looking troubled. However, Lila was not one to back down so easily. She swiftly turned to Nathan and urged,

    “He says it’s in his pocket.”

    “Huh?”

    “Oh, come on, hurry!”

    “Oh, ah… You want me to take it out…”

    Only then did Nathan realize what Lila meant, and he approached Azar closely. “Where?”, “Uh, the right side?” Unable to remember clearly, Azar gave a rough location. Nathan parted the robe and reached into Azar’s right pants pocket. His hand rummaged inside, searching for the coin purse. Somehow, the sensation of Nathan’s hand fumbling in his pocket felt peculiar. Then, as Nathan’s hand firmly grasped something, Azar mumbled softly,

    “…That’s not it.”

    “Ah, sorry.”

    At those words, Nathan quickly withdrew his hand.

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