「It is I who should be outraged. You abducted my younger sister and…forced me to kill her.」
Zaitlead said in a voice full of anger as he held the collapsed body of Yunis in his arms.
「I would like nothing more than to kill you all where you stand, but it seems that your actual bodies are in the labyrinth. Prepare yourselves and wait. I won’t be long in breaking in and ensuring your bodies are ground until there is nothing left.」
Zaitlead announced and swung his sword. The three forms crumbled into splinters of wood in a single hit and scattered on the ground.
「There is no need for that. I will settle this right here and now.」
An amber light flashed on the ground as Aur teleported from the labyrinth. In his arms, a single woman was held captive.
It was Zaitlead’s wife, Hilda who was pushed forward with her hands tied behind her back.
「The life of this woman…」
「What a foolish thing you’ve-」
Before Aur could finish, Zaitlead’s sword flashed. His sword plunged into Hilda’s breast, she looked at him with uncomprehending eyes.
Blood poured from her mouth as her body fell to the ground. In an instant, the body changed to a very different looking woman; a stranger.
「Magic has no power over me. Did you really believe that I would be phased by such an illusion?」
Zaitlead gave Aur a contemptuous glare as he swung the blood off his sword.
「Indeed. There is no sorcery that affects you. Your sword knows no hesitation, no carelessness, you would even kill your own younger sister.」
「…What are you saying? What do you want? Do you think that you, a sorcerer, could beat me?」
「I am saying that your lack of hesitation and carelessness is carelessness.」
Aur turned the body of Hilda over with his foot and pulled her soul from the body.
Zaitlead’s eyes widened at the ghost that floated in the air. There was no doubt about it, she was Hilda.
「The soul cannot be imitated. Surely you do understand that this is not a lie, that the real soul of Hilda is right here.」
「It can’t be…!?」
Zaitlead’s body shook, his eyes bore into the ghost before him. It was not an illusion by magic. There was no possibility of it being another with a similar appearance. It was her real soul, her real appearance.
「You foolish Hero. You deny sorcery as child’s play, you underestimated it and put too much faith in your own eyes. Flesh and bones can be altered into any shape.」
Cut and bend the flesh and bones, then simply bind them in place before using a restoration spell. And through the bonds, the flesh and bones will alter their shape in order to fit. Just as Faro, the hobbit girl, had her womb reshaped. He had done the same to the abducted Hilda.
He had also fried her throat to change her voice before recreating Hilda’s original voice and appearance with an illusion. The illusion was the reality.
「Are you sure now? Do you know that I can bring her back to life?」
Aur said as Zaitlead threw his sword down and was about to make a grab for Aur. Zaitlead’s arms paused a moment before his fingers tore Aur to shreds.
「It was just one stab in the chest. You’re very skilled. With this degree of damage, I could still bring her back. Fortunately, her soul is still preserved right here. If I healed her wounds and returned her soul, this woman would come back to life. If I used magic, that is.」
Aur then embedded the soul of Hilda into his own body. With this done, Zaitlead could no longer lay a finger on him.
「To be honest, it would be ceaselessly boring to have you torn to pieces… And your skills are so valuable. I could bring your wife back to life, if you accept my curse and work for me.」
「What did you…」
Zaitlead’s 『Curse of Lead』was one that he had cast on himself. His strength was his creed… he was dependant on the worldview that Magic was inconsequential and worthless. If he desired and accepted the protection of magic, if he wished for the resurrection of his wife, that curse would naturally, be broken.
Zaitlead thought hard. Hilda’s death was incomparable to the death of Yunis.
It wasn’t the difference between a sister and a wife, it was the difference between a hero and a mere human. The difference between someone destined for an untimely death and someone with the possibility of leaving this world peacefully.
「…If I do as you say, you will help Hilda?」
「Yes. I will bring her back to life without a single scratch remaining.」
In the next instant, his body separated in two, leaving a pile of sawdust.
It was a difficult decision for him. He had killed his beloved wife, he would carry that guilt. Even through that, he could not stop being a Hero. If he did, he would be doing a disservice to his younger sister, who he had killed to remain a Hero.
Now that no one remained, Zaitlad was filled with a sense of emptiness.
To destroy the evil in the world, to fight the unjust, to protect the people. That is the calling given to Heroes. However, he himself had not obeyed this calling without question at all times.
His wife, his sister. He was able to fight until now and tarnish his hands in the blood of countless people because he had something to protect. But he no longer had anything to protect. He himself had killed the both of them.
And that is why he could not oppose it.
He ran up to her and held her as she pulled herself close to him. Her soft skin, that face he loved more than anything, the familiar voice. It was his wife without a doubt.
「You were alive…?」
Zaitlead held her close as tears streamed down her face, he softly kissed her. A sense of euphoria filled his chest and he was overcome with relief. It was a bad dream. That he had killed his wife, his sister. He subconsciously accepted this illusion….this magic.
Amidst the joy, the heart of the Hero stopped moving. All of his life force had been taken by the succubus who had the appearance of his wife.
Lilu sighed as she returned to her usual form. The life force of the Hero was unsurprisingly, of a high quality in taste. Normally, she would have like to crack a joke at this point, but standing next to where Yunis’ head had rolled did not put her in the mood.
「Aur, hurry up and resurrect the poor girl.」
A substitute of Aur emerged from the shadow of a tree, and Lilu handed him Yunis’ head and body. Aur placed his hand on the severed neck and Yunis’ head reconnected with her body without a trace of blood remaining. However, without a change in expression, Aur mumbled:
Ignoring Lilu’s question, Aur walked passed her and put his hand over Hilda’s body as well. In a blink of an eye, the open wound in the chest became whole once again. He also reversed time on her face, bringing it back to what it once was.
「…you can’t? What do you mean?」
Lilu asked as Aur methodically dealt with the bodies.
「You cannot resurrect Heroes. …Look closely at the body.」
「…No. There is no soul!」
Lilu shouted as she looked at the bodies as instructed. It would be impossible to resurrect them if they had no souls. No matter how their bodies were returned to normal, they were nothing but empty vessels.
「The soul of a Hero returns straightway into the heavens when they die. That is how it has always been.」
「…Does that mean…」
Lilu had a memory of something very similar happening.
「There is nothing too impressive about Heroes. …There is not much difference between them and a sorcerer who makes a contract with the Devil.」
Aur nodded and spat as Lilu became speechless.