Hour Empty Child
The crowd of people peeked at the scene with astonishment, and some others, who came for their meals, started to look upset.
The reason was that a couple was starting a fight with the servers of the Niner’s Diner. However, a voice resounded which stopped the fight, getting the accusers to look back at the recipient.
Wanting to make sure that he was heard clearly, he shouted again. The dumbstruck look on the couple’s faces changed in an instant to elated smiles.
“My boy! You’re here?!”
As if a flash of lightning struck them, the two’s attitudes towards the servers disappeared, leaving only proud parents as they dashed towards their child, widening their arms with tears in their eyes.
The two embraced Kudo with a tightening hug that looked like it would push all the air out of his body.
“Kudo! You look so well! You look so buff!”
The woman, Kudo’s mother, Meiki, said while using her hands to feel her son’s body all around his torso which got him to feel awkward.
“Haha, you look so different than before! How’ve you been? How come you didn’t tell us you were here?!”
The man, Kudo’s father, Trun, continued slapping his son’s back with some force, but Kudo’s toughened body was able to withstand such pressure.
The two kept asking questions while showing delighted expressions, their alacrity practically gushing out of him.
“I-I’m fine!” Kudo felt his cheeks heating up while feeling the heavy stares of other people on them. “I should be asking you guys why you’re here!”
‘Bwaa!’ Kudo exhaled after being released by his parents’ hug. But before Kudo could listen, in the corner of his eyes, he saw the manager and the servers who looked mildly uncomfortable, fearing for what comes next.
They could tell that, from his armor and the well-known Magic Bag at his waist, that he was an adventurer. The servers believed that he might cause even more trouble if they don’t do as he says.
Kudo instantly empathized with their current situation.
Putting his hand up, stopping his parents’ from asking their numerous question, he walked towards the servers. The servers and manager all flinched in reaction to his movement, fearing that the worst was about to begin.
However, it was the opposite. Kudo looked into his extra-dimensional [Magic Bag], and took out a bag and counted the coins inside it. Confirmed, he handed the bag to the elder manager. The manager then took the bag slowly, verified the contents.
“I apologize for the trouble. Here’s the payment they owe, and a little extra for the issues.”
Kudo flashed a smile, emanating a wave of gentleness and sincerity. The manager looked like he was about to tear up in relief after seeing the boy’s smile.
“T-Thank you very much for your patronage!”
The manager, as well as the servers, bowed quickly to Kudo who walked back towards the parents, eyes popping out of their heads, their mouths gaping.
“K-Kudo! What did you do that for?!” Trun shouted, a nervous sweat running down his temple.
“Why did you pay the full amount, and even extra?! They were robbing us of our money!”
Meiki added in, shaking her fists up and down with steam fuming out of her ears.
“Mom, it's fine. Dad, I got enough to pay anyways, so don’t worry about it.”
“A-Amazing…” Trun spoke in bewilderment.
“So you really are doing well in your journey… As your mother, I’m so happy”
Meiki’s eyes started to water. Kudo reacted strongly by fiddling with his hands, trying to find a handkerchief for his mother to use.
Meanwhile, looking at them as if she had nothing to do with this, Hinota was astonished after seeing the people Kudo refer to as his parents.
“T-They are Kudo’s mother and father… they…”
After confirming their appearances, something struck within Hinota’s mind. However, she brushed it aside, slightly shaking her head.
Hinota pumped herself up, clenching her fists for whatever reason as she headed towards to where the Braven family was. As of now, they were getting out of the crowd of people that were slowly dispersing away since the situation has been handled well.
“I see, so you came here to sell your items, is that right? Very economical! That’s my boy!”
Meiki clasps her hands together, a bright smile that radiated light like Kudo.
“To think my son would get so much money… to be honest, daddy’s quite shocked. Of course, I’m also very proud!”
Beating his chest with his fist, Trun grinned widely.
“So why are you guys doing here? Why are you all the way here in Vipory?”
Kudo asked now that the three of them were away from other citizens and near a restaurant with fewer people.
“Ah, that…” Trun brushed the back of his head as he directed that question to Meiki with a glance.
“You see, we were invited, by a chairman of this city, no less!”
Meiki responded with an excited grin. She searched in her bag that she carried and took out a clean envelope with a wax seal at the back. Kudo opened the letter as soon as she handed it to him.
“Oh… mmh, you are invited to… a consolidation for farmers in the Sparkling Oasis?”
“That’s right! That place is run by this rich guy called Herrin Oasis. He’s the owner of Sparkling Oasis, a famous resort that keeps this city afloat! All the farmers around all of Peranim are meeting up to exchange information on better agriculture methods! Basically, we share our secrets to improve ourselves!”
Meiki responded with a slight skip in her step. Kudo could tell that his mother was very happy, but a worry rose from his mind.
“B-But is that really okay? Wouldn’t that mean that the other farmers will know your secrets, and will sell more products than you guys?”
“It’s not like we’re competitive, you know! These farmers are widely spread all across Peranim. They sell their products in different towns, so it has nothing to do with us.”
“And you know your mother; anything’s good as long as it gets us some quick cash.”
Trun gave a wry laugh which got Kudo to chuckle.
“It’s good to see that you two are alright… Still, I never heard of going to a consolidation with farmers before. Has this happened before?”
“Not that I know of. This might be the first time I have ever seen this happen.”
Hinota’s voice entered into the conversation, getting all of them to look at her coming in, saying ‘sorry for intruding’ as she showed herself.
“Oh my… is that?”
Kudo ran to Hinota, an enthusiastic smile on his face. Hinota noticed the keen stares being received by his parents, her body becoming pressured by their expectations.
“Ooh! Such a beautiful young lady!” Trun shouted, his eye gleaming. “Could this be who I think she is?”
“That’s right!” Kudo proudly answered. “Mom, Dad, this is Hinota! She’s the one I told you about in my letters.”
Kudo introduced Hinota, using hand gestures as if he was displaying a brand new item. Hinota’s cheeks blushed faintly, bowing her head slightly.
“It is a pleasure to finally meet you two.”
Kudo perked his ears up after hearing Hinota’s formal tone. Looking at her, he sensed that she was nervous for some reason.
“Hinota, you don’t have to be so reserved…”
“A-Ah, I’m sorry. I just…”
Hinota flustered, not realizing the tone she was using. However, seeing the two parents’ faces, it didn’t seem to matter.
“So THIS is the one who Kudo has been talking about all the time in his letters!”
Meiki verified Hinota up and down in complete wonder, her eyes were just as gleaming as Trun’s were.
Kudo’s cheeks heated up after hearing his mother’s words spoken out loud.
“I-I don’t talk about her all the time…”
“Talking about…? As in?”
Hinota’s ears perked up, her eyes suddenly giving off a curious glint.
“Haha, Kudo talks about you in just about every letter! He kept saying how awesome, and how cool, and how amazing you were! All around the best partner he could ever hope for in adventuring!”
Hearing the heated father’s passionate words, Hinota and Kudo shared the same reaction with steam coming out of their ears and dying their faces red. Kudo felt like dying thanks to his father revealing his inner contents, while Hinota became embarrassed from his praises.
“W-W-What are you talking about?! Don’t say it like that!”
His cheeks reddening all the way to his ears, he went up to his father and kept winding his arms as if they were ready to hit him, but his father only grinned and brushed Kudo’s head, saying ‘You’re so grown up!’, which got him more embarrassed.
Seeing Kudo’s torture with his excited parents, Hinota took a moment to relieve herself of her embarrassment, putting her hand above her chest to calm herself down. She then asked:
“N-Now that I think about it, I did spot Kudo writing letters every now and then.”
Hinota recalled the times when she would visit his room in the inn they’re staying just to talk a bit more before she slept, and notices Kudo on his desk, putting all of his effort to write a letter.
“Well, even in Arkhem, we can still receive letters from messengers, though it’s still pretty far away.”
“But as he promised, he kept writing every week.”
Meiki responded by petting Kudo’s head like a child. Kudo turned away, wanting to pretend that he doesn’t exist at this moment to spare himself of any more embarrassment.
“Though, it would be hard to decipher Kudo’s handwriting if we weren’t used to it.”
Kudo retorted, lowering his brows. ‘Hahaha!’ Hinota responded with a small laugh.
Seeing the situation unfold badly for him, Kudo looked around for a way to get away from all this before it gets worse, and thought up of an escape plan.
“A-Anyways, I bet you two hardly ate anything, right? How about we go somewhere else to get some food? It’ll be my treat!”
Kudo grabbed hold of his parents’ shoulders and dragged them away from Hinota.
Hinota, however, could read Kudo’s mind instantly and knew his reasoning for his sudden change. Curling her lips upwards to herself, she followed after Kudo.
After walking for a couple of minutes, they found themselves another restaurant that they can partake in.
This time, they entered through the well carved wooden doors into the stone building. They entered into a bright room, the clean windows letting the sun shine on the tables that spread around.
The restaurant itself was quite spacious. It had three levels, each one having a small set of stairs that leads upwards to the inner ring of the floor, reaching up to 3 floors.
Kudo called for a waiter, surprising his parents that he was capable of doing such a high-level social skill, and asked him for a table of four. The waiter smiled and bowed, telling Kudo to follow him.
Being led further into the restaurant, descending down on the small steps of stairs that led to the bottom level, the waiter pointed them to the large table.
As they were led, the parents, Meiki and Trun, were too much in shock by the atmosphere, and their faces turned blue as they kept stealing glances at their surroundings.
“Kudo… this is…”
“Yeah… I don’t think we should even…”
The restaurant around them was quite lavish. Several paintings were hanging on the pillars, showing exquisite portraits of monsters in regal forms, wearing crowns and mantles of high stature. The people inside weren’t exactly loosely dressed like the parents either. They wore elegant clothing, close resemblance to nobles.
Meiki and Trun tried to respond as they sat down with Kudo and Hinota who had not changed their expressions at all.
Rather, upon entering the restaurant, Hinota had a glinting look in her eyes, possibly thinking about the kind of food that they will serve here. She looked down at the menu that was on the table and checked for the meals being offered.
“Don’t mind it, guys. Remember, from now on, you’re a part of everyone here!”
Kudo had a gentle smile, the kind of gentleness that calmed them down in this strange environment. Hinota, however, felt awkward as she saw the child trying to comfort his parents.
Before long, another waiter came about. This time, it was a young man with a shortcut hair who greeted them with a smile.
“Is there anything you like to order?”
The waiter asked with a business-like smile.
“It looks like these guys serve tons of meat. You guys like anything?”
Kudo handed the question to his parents, but he later saw that the two, seeing the menus on the table for themselves, begun to tremble as they met their gazes with the waiter.
“Umm… just a glass of water.”
Kudo’s voice made them jump in surprise along with Hinota. Kudo was furrowing his brow—he looked upset.
“Like I said, I got everything down. It’s all on me. So order whatever you like!”
Kudo glared at them, saying with his eyes ‘I can pay for this’. Seeing such a willful expression, the two shared a glance with each other before turning back to their menus.
‘Then…’ The two simultaneously said.
Despite their objections, they were slightly excited. After ordering their meals, the waiter turned to Kudo and Hinota.
“I’ll have a salad with some fruits for the side dish. Hinota, what’ll you have?”
“Mmh… I’d like to have three Boar burgers, two Cowlion steaks, 4 Piggy smoked ribs, two bowls of salad, and… I suppose a few drinks of the best Lingin fruit juice you have.”
Meiki, Trun, and the waiter whitened in surprise.
“Hinota, anything else?”
“O-Oh, I shouldn’t. I don’t wanna look like such a glutton to your parents…”
Hinota blushed a bit, showing the bit of feminity as she gently placed her hand on her cheek.
“O-Oh, I get you.”
Knowing that girls need to look proper, a lesson taught to him by Hinota, Kudo told the waiter as he showed a bit of discomfort on his face from remembering the dishes, but he bowed and moved away to the counter where he told all those complicated orders.
“W-Wow… such a big appetite from such a slim girl.”
Meiki carefully chose her words to make it less rude than it should.
“I’m sorry. My body is the kind that it’ll break down if I don’t consume enough calories. I keep burning calories whenever I do strenuous activities.”
“My~ Such a proactive body!”
Meiki became impressed while Hinota looked down, a blush showing on her cheeks.
“Wow! And you still look good! Kudo, you really weren’t kidding when you said that you were hanging with such a pretty girl. I still can’t believe it!”
Trun held out his hand and slapped Kudo’s back with force, though Kudo shared the same kind of silly expression on his face as Trun’s.
“Didn’t I tell you? Hinota is the greatest!”
Before, Kudo was embarrassed to talk about this in front of Hinota.
But now that everything was out in the open, Kudo talked without any hesitation. Hearing that, Hinota blush became stronger after hearing so many compliments at once.
“E-Enough,” Hinota stammered, but remained composed. “There’s so much flattery, it’s starting to get to me.”
“My, Hinota, it’s all true. I never met a girl as beautiful as you! Why, you look like you could pass off as royalty!”
Meiki also added in her compliment, clasping her hands together in a prayer sign aside her cheek with a bright smile, causing Hinota to close her eyes and blush severely.
“Ah, now that I realize, I never knew your last name. Kudo only ever said your first name.”
“R-Really? He never mentioned my last name?” Hinota looked at Kudo in surprise.
“Yeah. So what’s your full name?” Being interested, Trun asked while putting his elbow on the table with a grin.
“M-My full name is Hinota Flamver.”
Meiki and Trun heard the words, but it took them a couple of seconds for them to realize what she said. Suddenly, their eyes popped wide open.
“ “Eeehh?!” ”
The two slammed on the table with a bit of force, causing a small thump to be heard. Hinota was taken aback by this sudden shock.
“H-Hinota Flamver?! I know that family!” Meiki shouted.
“I-Isn’t that the Adventurer family that turned noble in that famous city of Erijo!? The kind that visits Peranim royalty and stuff?!”
Trun shouted, getting Hinota and Kudo to slowly nod.
Trun and Meiki fell back to their seats, beginning to whiten up in shock again.
“Kudo, how come you never told them my name?”
Hinota turned to Kudo, curious as to why he would evade saying her last name.
“Ah, well… I just couldn’t. Since I keep writing about you, saying your full name would be too much for the paper, so I just shortened it to just Hinota.”
Kudo’s cheeks blushed as he revealed his reasoning, but it left Hinota with a distant look on her face.
She has always been known as Hinota Flamver. The Flamver name has marked her as part of a powerful family. Everywhere she went, she would always be reminded of her last name.
Any friend she would make would go out and tell people that they got to know Hinota ‘Flamver’. The meaning behind Flamver meant honor and fame, and the friends would also share in the little bits of fame of knowing them.
So this was the first time that her last name was omitted. Even if it was just to save on paper, Hinota felt her heart swell with joy of only being mentioned by her name.
The name that only mentions herself, not her family in the least.
“Kudo! How come you never told us that you were hanging out with someone that famous?!”
Trun asked, getting Meiki to nod viciously to agree with him. But in response, Kudo’s eyes drooped before meeting with theirs.
“Mom, Dad… Hinota doesn’t like to talk about her family. She gets… sensitive about that.”
Kudo tried to word his phrase without sounding ignorant, surprising his parents and even Hinota who heard it.
“I-It’s okay, Kudo! You don’t have to hold back.”
“I should say the same to you. You don’t like it if people treat you differently because of your family, right?”
Hinota was left stunned after hearing that. Kudo turned to face his parents with a solemn face.
“So, can you guys take it easy?”
“O-Oh, I get you, son. Don’t worry about that.”
“Being in a family like that, I’m sure that there must be some issues. We’re sorry for being so insensitive about it, Miss Hinota.”
“D-Don’t worry about it! Really, I’m fine.”
Seeing the atmosphere becoming sullen, Hinota tried to bring back the sunny mood to assure them that she was fine.
“Really, I am. Right now, I’m just enjoying my journey together with my best friend, Kudo. It’s thanks to him that I managed to get this far.”
“Oh, best friend…?”
Meiki’s right eye glinted, becoming completely interested in what she said.
“Will you look at that? Kudo got himself a best friend! Kudo, you never told us this!”
“I was about to tell you guys in my next letter! Hinota became my best friend!”
“Ah~! I’m so happy for you! For the both of you!”
Suddenly, Hinota was entrusted into the bubbly air of the Braven family. Seeing Meiki making soft squeals, and Trun rubbing Kudo’s head ferociously with a proud grin…
Hinota was completely taken in by them.
(So, these are the Bravens…)
Hinota curled her lips into a dazzling smile.
“Here is your food!”
The waiter’s upbeat voice rang in, getting everyone to look with expecting eyes for the waiter who told them, and the other waiters bringing the food here in multiple metal trays.
The reason for this restaurant’s fame and rising popularity was how fast the servers worked to bring them their food. The other reason that it is expensive was that the food did not lack any taste as they were served with fast finesse.
The waiter brought in each of their plates to the table, putting in place for each customer to their taste. Trun ordered roasted ribs with a smokey smell that wafted in the air. Meiki ordered a bowl of chicken soup that had a succulent aroma that filled her nose with delight.
After Kudo received his salad, the waiter took their time to settle the next plates for Hinota alone. One, two, three… each plate was set delicately to the table, unleashing Hinota’s joy from her well-composed face through her eyes.
Setting apart the plates equally, making the table slightly bent out of shape from its massive weight as it was covered from brim to brim, the waiter responded:
“W-We hope that you enjoy your meals here…”
The other waiters replied with haggard breaths, slowly running to the back of the restaurant to continue their service. The main waiter had a wry smile, and slightly bowed as he left the four to themselves.
“Now then, let’s dig in!
After making a quiet prayer, Hinota delicately grabbed a fork to her side, and then…
She devoured every morsel of her food. The table was no longer bent from the pressure as she ate from each plate with finesse, but she was finishing them at a quick pace. The parents gaped, their eyes peeled open, and their spoons hanged in the air as Hinota devoured without remorse.
“K-Kudo… does she usually eat like this?”
“Oh, she’s taking her time this time. She wants to look composed.”
Kudo told them with a beaming smile, not affected by the situation at all which astounded the parents.
“…Such a big appetite.”
Inside, Meiki and Trun considered the costs they had to make in order to feed this girl. This girl, a toned but slim girl, devoured each meal and sent them into her apparently vast stomach that seemed to have no end.
It was truly a wonder of the world.