Hour Empty Child
A large carriage drove on the dirt path, the warm and humid wind swaying the leaves on the trees beside them. Several voices overlap inside its carriage, with the single man reigning in the horses outside.
The pebbles and potholes stood in the way of the wooden wheels, causing the carriage to jump up and down several times, bringing its passengers along with it.
“Ah… it hurts…”
A silky voice groaned, her hand rubbing her lower back and buttocks to relieve the pain from the last bump.
“We’re almost there, Hinota, so hang on…”
A tired voice responded, sitting beside Hinota with a groan of his own.
Kudo Braven and Hinota Flamver. Two members of the PlusFire party. They have been adventuring for about 6 months now.
In just half a year, they were the first Adventurers to reach the milestone of strength for Adventurers—the fated level 100, and the rumored Class Up.
Hinota has become a [Crimson Archmage], and Kudo’s Class is… still unknown. Their change in class granted them an increase in their stats, so their strength and magical power are on the same level as legends, as told by the other adventurers.
Since then, their party’s name has been passed around in several cities, mostly filled with adventurers, as the strongest party. They got to know about their fame through the notice posted on the bulletin board in one of the Adventurers’ Guild.
It was possible that the trio who witnessed their ascension to godly strength, the Dungeon Dwellers, have told the others what they saw.
In this case, Kudo has completed his first goal after leaving his home—to become famous.
But at this point, he didn’t care much about the fame.
Because he has gained what he has never expected, but always hoped for, before he started this adventure.
He gained a best friend.
After their fearless struggle against the Lava Golem of the Prom Pru dungeon, the two became closer, becoming best friends. Kudo has considered Hinota as an irreplaceable comrade. Without her, he would have never reached level 100 to begin with.
“Kudo… why can’t we get our own horse…”
“L-Like I said, they’re too expensive… please don’t poke my face with your foot.”
Kudo felt his right cheek being nudged by Hinota’s boot-covered feet. The two were sitting near the edge of the carriage with Hinota laying lazily with a scowl that seemed like she wants to kill him, but it was actually just annoyance.
Whatever distance these two had when they were ‘just friends’ was gone. The two have forgotten their personal limits placed on themselves and have gotten closer than ever before.
The walls around their hearts, which have slowly withered after each moment they share with each other, have completely broken down.
Kudo had enough and swatted away Hinota’s foot with an angry vein throbbing on his forehead. Hinota chuckled as she sat upright, several passengers behind them formed a gentle smile after seeing the two young teenagers playing around.
“I didn’t think you would have accepted this at all, Kudo. You always keep saying to keep leveling and working on getting loot to no end.”
Hinota bended her knee to face upright for her chin to rest on, directing her gaze onto Kudo. Her thin tone arms wrapped around her knee.
“At this point, there’s no need to grind levels for a while. We can just take it easy, for now at least.”
Kudo was also seating comfortably, his body nearly sprawled out with his hands acting as poles to support his body. The sun’s warm rays only shined on his feet as the shade from the roof of the carriage was over his head.
“To think that I would hear those words from someone who’s obsessed with working,” Hinota flashed a grin.
“All work and no play makes a boring man, Hinota. You should know this.”
Hinota hits Kudo’s shoulder with a fist, causing a sharp pang as well as a silly look on his face, making him fall to his side dramatically.
“Ahh… it hurts! My [HP] has fallen down to zero!”
“Yeah, right! You damn faker!”
Hinota continues beating on his shoulder, making Kudo exaggeratingly shout out each time.
After their adventure in the dungeon, Hinota offered to take a vacation, which surprisingly, Kudo agreed to it. As of now, they were heading to a city where they can rest their weary bones.
Vipory City. A famous spot for relaxation and wonders for the body and soul. It captivated the both of them as they usually had to use the common baths and beds to save the extra jib.
The other mundane reason was that the PlusFire members had too many dropped loot and spare equipment that were ‘too expensive’ to sell to the other merchants in the other cities along the way, so it became a necessity for them to sell them at the economically prominent Vipory.
“Still, along with the vacation, I didn’t think that we would have trouble selling our stuff…”
Kudo rubbed his head, annoyed at the extra trouble.
“Tell me about it. Those merchants should be ashamed of themselves. If they don’t even have enough money for us to take, then what’s the point of them?”
“Haha,” Kudo laughed wryly. “Hinota, not even the most dominating merchants can hold a candle to you.”
“You say that as if you just realized it.”
Hinota flicked her hair with a snooty-like arrogance.
Kudo could only mentally sigh as he was used this.
Instead, he enjoyed how Hinota has been having so much fun acting like this. It meant that she was showing her true self around him.
It was possible that she wasn’t able to show much of her personality in the Flamver manor filled with nobles and expectations. One could only imagine what it feels like to constantly show grace, and to never shame the family with silly actions.
Seeing her like this, Kudo’s chest swelled with delight that he was chosen to be someone that she can be open to like this.
“Kudo, we came a long way, didn’t we?”
Kudo turned to Hinota after being called out of his mind. She gazed at the field passing by, showing a distant look in her slanted eyes.
“The first time we partied was about half a year ago. I started the month before that, so that first month… it can’t be compared to how it is now.”
There was a sense of gratitude in her tone. Memories start to flood in, showing the time in the Forest of Dek, and their first meeting.
“I remember that you screamed like an actual girl before.”
“Y-You! Don’t remember that part!”
Hinota turned quickly, her cheeks blushing to her ears which contradicted her earlier look.
“Hehe, but I wouldn’t have met you if you didn’t.”
Realizing Kudo’s logic, Hinota looked back at the dirt path, her cheeks still reddened.
“But, the truth is that you would’ve been fine if you weren’t misinformed. Plus, having your parents force you to become an adventurer as your only choice was just awful…”
Kudo felt frustrated over how her parents treated her. He put on a dissatisfied glare on his face when he recalls that time.
The Flamver family were famously known for their powerful Special Class.
In order for the family to live on with their acclaim as the strongest, her parents forced a marriage on Hinota to one of the distant relatives. That way, the Class [Hell Knight] would be passed down without any issues.
It was made that way because Hinota’s older sister was born without the family class, despite being the first born and directly related to Hinota’s grandfather, the head of the clan.
If word passes around that the Flamver family have members who did not have the Special Class, despite having a direct bloodline, it was possible that they will lose their acclaim in nobility.
They were forcing Hinota a marriage with someone who did had the class, and it was someone which she hated to be around with. Hinota had to become an adventurer to avoid getting married, just as her sister did. If it wasn’t for the support of her grandfather, a renowned adventurer, she would have stayed behind and got married.
Kudo clenched his fist tightly whenever he went back to thinking about her situation. No family should ever force their children to accept a role they do not wish to have.
“Hold on, Kudo. It’s not like I was forced to become an Adventurer.”
Despite doing his best to hide it, Hinota could plainly see the displeased look Kudo was showing. Kudo turned to see Hinota raising the corners of her lips.
“My sister became an adventurer, despite being a woman of the family, so that she wouldn’t have to become a wife for the sake of a bloodline. I wasn’t forced to become one—I wanted to do it. Because I want to go where my sister is.”
Hinota looked back at the dirt path, her head filled with the words her sister left behind.
“I’m glad I became one. I might have had a bad month before, but if I hadn’t stuck out, I wouldn’t have got to know you.”
Kudo’s brows rose as Hinota turned to face him again, a beaming smile on her face.
“So, I’m glad I went through it. If I changed anything, I wouldn’t have gotten so much fun with you like I am now. So, even if I get a skill that lets me time-travel, I probably wouldn’t change anything…”
Hinota casually joked, chuckling to herself. Kudo also chuckled, his earlier frustrations suddenly blew away.
“Mmh, now that I think about it… Why did you become an Adventurer, Kudo?”
Hearing such a question, Kudo tilted his neck, “Mmh?”
“I mean, you always keep saying that being an Adventurer is your dream. I get that.”
Kudo blushed, rubbing the back of his head sheepishly from hearing his words out of another’s mouth.
“But why did you become an Adventurer? Is there any reason why you want to? You said it was because you wanted to get out of your village?”
Hinota became interested, directing her curious gaze onto Kudo now. Kudo looked down at the bottom of the carriage, clasping his hands together and twiddling his thumbs.
“W-Well, something like that. You see—”
Suddenly hearing the old driver up front screaming his heart out, Kudo and Hinota turned back in surprise.
“Ah, let’s check it out, Hinota!”
Kudo suddenly lifted himself up to have a closer look at the town, getting Hinota to warmly smile, saying ‘I’ll know it later’ to herself as she went with him to check out the view.