Hour Empty Child
Continuing their walk in the winding street of Vipory, Hinota stole a glance at her side, noticing Kudo within her gaze.
He kept looking down at his feet, his eyes solely on the ground while making sure to keep glances forward to not bump into anything. A frown was on his lips, and his brows slightly knitted.
She could tell instantly that Kudo was thinking deeply about something.
Usually, he would respond by hiding his chin with his hand, rubbing it as he believed he thinks faster when he does so.
But this time, he just looked pensive. It made Hinota worry.
Seeing this, she resulted by holding down her strengthened finger with her thumb. She directed her finger towards Kudo’s temple, and then—
A sharp pang on his left temple, his eye closed in response as he rubbed it to sooth the pain.
“W-What was that for?!”
“What else? You were thinking so hard for some reason, it made me wanna hurt you.”
“That’s your reason?!”
Once the pain subsided, Kudo realized what he was doing.
He was thinking too hard. Perhaps his weak-kneed personality was coming back, so Kudo shook his head furiously, raised his hands and slapped his own cheeks with a loud smack.
“…Yeah, you’re right.”
Kudo answered Hinota’s gaze, focusing only on his eyes.
“Sorry about that. I won’t do it again.”
He didn’t want to return to his awkward self again, especially after all the trouble of breaking his introverted habits.
He didn’t want to lose his own progress of becoming a positive adventurer.
“…Alright, good. You made good progress, Kudo. Don’t lose faith now.”
“Yeah! Thanks, Hinota…”
“Don’t mention it… we’re best friends, ri—”
A horrifying grumble filled their ears. The two made an immediate halt.
Kudo looked back at Hinota, who kept gazing downwards with her slanted eyes and a blush on her cheeks. Then, he directed his gaze further down to her belly.
He could already tell what’s the reason for this.
“…Hinota, you’re hungry?”
A deeper blush formed on her face.
“Puh—hahaha! Alright then, let’s get something to eat now!”
He laughed loudly as he smiled, getting her to look away without meeting his gaze. Even if she wanted to say something, her stomach cannot lie.
“You don’t have to laugh so hard!”
“Hahaha, that’s what you get for hitting me before!”
“I didn’t think you would be so petty, Kudo!”
Hinota snapped back while she gritted her teeth, but Kudo continued laughing anyways.
After checking out the directions, this time from the map that showed the city on a sign, the two headed off towards the northern west side of the street. After passing through the narrow alleys between buildings to get to the western side quickly, light shined down on them after getting out, their eyes widened from the scenery.
Several buildings, mostly restaurants, lined up the intersecting streets. Dozens upon dozens of citizens were going in and out of these restaurants. The buildings themselves had pyramid-shaped roofs, and the front of those roofs had their names placed at the front in big, bold letters.
Apparently, this was called the Eatery’s plaza. This place is famous for their chain restaurants working together to bring in their customers with their amazing variety of meals. The smell from these restaurants, still quite far away from the PlusFire, made Hinota nearly salivate.
Running towards to the streets, surrounded by these enticing smells, Hinota turned her head up like a beast searching for the pleasant meals from the scent alone.
“Kudo, over there. The food there smells delicious!”
“You’re like a tracker for good food, Hinota.”
Kudo joked as Hinota stuck her tongue out at him, immediately changing to an excited one as Hinota pulled Kudo’s hand and lead him towards the smell that got her so pumped up.
“Ahh, it’s been a while since we ate breakfast. That must be why I’m so hungry…”
“Hehe, seeing the new city kinda made you forget your stomach for a moment.”
The two enjoyed a conversation on the way there.
“Just so you know, I don’t usually get hungry like that. Today was an exception.”
Hinota defended herself, her cheeks mildly blushing with her face turning upwards.
“But that means that you need to fuel up, otherwise you’ll stop working. It’s nothing to be embarrassed about.”
“Kudo… for a girl, having a growling stomach is embarrassing, you know. It makes other people think that we’re gluttons.”
“With your figure, nobody would think like that.”
“Ooh, before you wouldn’t even comment on my body,” Hinota curled her lips, her tone showing a slight tease. “Look at you now.”
“It’s no surprise after spending half a year with you. Besides, I know you like your compliments.”
Hinota chuckled, her hunger subsiding for a moment as her ego filled it up momentarily. Kudo could tell as he smiled to himself.
(It’s so much fun talking to her like this.)
Kudo felt his heart flutter as he enjoyed every minute he spends with Hinota. As they walk, they came up to a street that had a building crowded with several people.
They could tell that it was a popular restaurant. It was an open air restaurant with several tables that had canopies over them that took up the large space at the front of the restaurant.
It was a simple restaurant. The sign at the front said ‘Niner’s Diner’, saying that it was a simple restaurant. The prices on the front were pretty cheap as well. The smells from the kitchens inside the restaurant that have been escaping through the windows, however, betrayed that cheap mindset, getting everyone to be called in by it.
“Mmh… fried fish, grilled meat, steamed vegetables… it’s so enticing~”
A delighted expression was shown on the slanted eyes girl. Kudo thought she would have drooled by then, but knew that Hinota was more mindful of her appearance in public.
“Then, wanna head over there? It doesn’t look that fancy, so it’ll be light on our pockets.”
“That’s perfect then… mmh?”
Something caught Hinota’s eyes, moving her arms in front of Kudo to motion him to stop. Kudo looked ahead to see what caught Hinota’s attention.
Several people were crowding at the front of the entrance to the gated restaurant. Apparently, it wasn’t because it was fairly popular, but because an event was taking place. Loud voices could be heard from within.
“I-It sounds like an argument…”
“Looks like someone doesn’t want to pay for their food.”
Making out the words being shouted out, Hinota surmised the issue. Kudo instantly thought that it was some miser who refuses to pay for the chef’s hard work which got him slightly miffed. But, even more so, he felt embarrassed for the fool who’s making such a scene, causing trouble for everyone despite that he’s in the wrong.
However, even if there was a fight, it didn’t stop them from going in. They still wanted to eat, after all. They headed further in, breaking through the crowd so that they could head inside.
They got close to the epicenter of the crowd, seeing for once the person who was causing the loud scene.
It turns out that it was two people fighting against the waiters and servers of the restaurant. The waiters looked uncomfortable, sweat ran down their faces as the couple, a man and a woman, were yelling at them.
“This is despicable!”
The woman shouted, putting her hands on her hips as if she was scolding them.
The woman looked young, possibly in her 20’s or 30’s. Her short, green hair was combed to the side and had a slim, short sized body which wore a simple light yellow dress.
“The food’s not even that tasty, so why you make the bill so high, huh?!”
The man shouted his reason, clenching his fists and flailed it around.
The man was a few inches bigger than his partner. He had brown short hair, a strong body built for working, along with a checkered shirt and long pants.
The servers could only hang their heads back, their sweat becoming more visible by the minute.
“B-But, dear customers,” The one who looked like the manager of the restaurant, a stout old man, tried to calm them down. “It was only about 4,500 jib of the total amount.”
“That’s way too much!” The man shouted back, swinging his arm to the side.
The servers looked up to the manager as they were too scared of the couple. The elder manager tried to remain composed, but a sweat could clearly be seen running down his wrinkled face.
“I can make better food than what you served, and all under 500 jib!” The woman complained, her eyes completely furrowed.
“And I can prove it! Her spices of love kicks up the flavor, enough to put all your cold and uncaring food to shame!”
The man supported the woman’s claim, bringing down the server’s confidence by the look of their downtrodden face.
“That kind of food deserves at least 2,500 jib! No more!” The woman shouted, finally making the crew to flinch in surprise.
Meanwhile, the two adventurers watched the fight unfold into something more serious.
“Mmh…” Hinota’s gaze was resting on the couple. “It looks like they’re taking advantage of the situation and demanding a reduction in their payment. Quite underhanded, but it’s a solid strategy.”
Hinota made her opinion on the couple’s plan, admitting the genius in their ingenuity. But despite saying this, Hinota did not hear Kudo’s reply. She looked back at him, noticing his expression.
“T-Those two are…”
Kudo’s eyes were widened, enough to pop out. His skin turned pale and a sweat ran down his face just like the servers.
“K-Kudo? You know those two?”
“…I do. Very much so…”
After answering as if he didn’t want to, Kudo cupped his hands near his mouth and inhaled his breath.
Hinota popped open her eyes. The couple stopped their screaming at the servers and turned their heads to the recipient.
The two answered together, their eyes completely widened.