Hour Empty Child
The sound of heavy rain permeated through the walls of the room. Sounds of hollering and shrill screaming from the excited citizens were muffled.
Within the square-sized room, two beds lay at the west side, and a large rug on the wooden floor that went along in design with the cream-colored walls.
Sitting on one of the comfy beds was Kudo, laid back with his hand resting on the bed with the other messing around with his Class’ status screen.
Hinota also sat by on the same bed as him with a prideful smile on her face, enjoying this moment more than anything.
After flicking his finger around, he flicked once again towards the direction of the other bed, where Trun and Meiki were. The screen that was floating in front of him moved towards the parents, making them slightly jumpy from the workings of an adventurer’s screen.
After the screen reached them, the two took a closer look at his stats.
The two’s reactions got Kudo and Hinota to lock eyes with a smile.
“Kudo, is this true?! Are you really over level 100?!”
Trun shouted after looking up from the screen. The look on his face showed his excitement as well as shock.
“T-Then that means that both you and Hinota have already gotten your Class Up?”
There was a slight tremble in Meiki’s tone, her eyes widened.
Meiki and Trun knew just a little about adventurers. When their son wanted to be one, they studied about them when Kudo was sleeping. They knew that a Class Up was one of the most difficult feats an adventurer can go through because of its harsh leveling process.
And yet, Kudo and Hinota have achieved their Class Up in only half a year.
“Yep! That’s right!”
“Gotta say, it was pretty hard to get that. We had to defeat a pretty big boss in a dungeon.”
“ “Dungeon?!” ”
Another kind of information that the parents heard yet never expected their child to go through. One of the most grueling locations where an adventurer can gain a plethora of experience points, but the difficulty is high compared to the overworld monsters outside the dungeon.
Especially the bosses. Hearing that from Hinota, a well-educated young lady, the father and mother left their jaws hanging in the air.
Seeing their unbelievable expressions herself, she took a glance at Kudo, forming a silly smile on his beaming face.
He must have wanted this kind of reaction. He really wanted to impress his parents.
It was natural for a child to impress his parents. When you do something incredible, you want to tell it to the people closest to you. Hinota couldn’t help but smile at this childish side of Kudo.
“Geez, I expected that Kudo would be a good adventurer, but I never thought you would be THIS incredible…”
There was no sign of ill will in his words. He laid back on the bed with a tired expression and a half-smile. It seems that it took a toll on his mind.
“Ah… when I think about the kind of dangers Kudo went through… Mother is shaken.”
Referring herself in the third person, Meiki hung her head low into her hands as if it became extraordinarily heavy to carry with just her neck.
“G-Guys, I’m fine. It’s mostly thanks to Hinota that I managed to get this far!”
Seeing their faces, Kudo felt slightly guilty and tried to reassure them.
“Still…” Meiki utters out a sigh.
“Hahaha! To think our son became a legend! This is awesome!”
His exhaustion was only momentary as Trun lifted himself from the bed and shouted to the roof. Meiki, however, looks even more tired than usual after seeing that.
“Don’t get too excited. You’ll blow a gasket.”
“Hey, I ain’t that old yet!”
Trun retorted to Meiki as she gave a slight chuckle. But then suddenly her head raised. She took a moment to take a whiff on herself from her wrist and noticed the slightly sweaty smell.
“Oh my, I can’t go on like this,” Meiki pushed herself off the bed, clasping her hands together. “Hinota, would you like to accompany me to the bath?”
“The bath?” Taking a moment to smell herself, she noticed that she was sweaty herself. “Now that I think about it, it’s been a while. Sure, I’ll go.”
“Great! It’s been a while since I last had a bath with another girl! This will be fun!”
Meiki claps with enthusiasm as she skipped to Hinota and grabs her wrists, pulling Hinota out of the bed with an energetic jump.
Hinota stammered as the two girls headed for the door to get to the baths, leaving Kudo and Trun behind in the room.
“Haha, it’s been a while since I last saw Meiki so excited, isn’t that right, Kudo?”
Giving a chuckle, Trun took a glance to see Kudo with an uncomfortable expression.
“Y-Yeah, but I hope Mom doesn’t say anything too weird to Hinota…”
“Hahaha, they’re girls, Kudo! It’s only natural that they’ll have such a conversation!”
“T-That can’t be!”
Kudo’s heart started racing after hearing what his mother might do. He grabs his head in a panic, eyes shut tight as he imagines the terrible information that his mother might bestow to his best friend.
Seeing that reaction, Trun curled his mouth into a sneer, his brows lowers slightly and his eyes started to glint.
“By the way, Kudo… did you do anything ‘manly’ to Hinota?”
After his words pierced Kudo’s hearing, his face suddenly explodes into a big shade of red. Steam came out of his ears and his eyes popped wide open.
“D-Dad! What are you talking about?!”
He shouted at his father who spoke of such slanderous words, but his father grinned widely, showing a perverted look.
“You know… you are old enough to be considered an adult in Peranim. It’s only natural that you two would have done something if you spent so much time together all by yourselves.”
“I-I-It’s not like that! I-It’s n-not like that at all!”
Kudo stammered, shaking his head furiously to ward off whatever atmosphere was taking place. Trun suddenly laughed out loud, catching Kudo off guard.
“Hahaha! I’m just kidding, Kudo! Hahahahaha!”
“D-Dad! That’s not funny! She’s my best friend!”
Seeing his father holding his gut as he continues to laugh loudly, Kudo gritted his teeth in embarrassment and frustration.
Seeing Hinota as a woman… it’s not as though Kudo has never thought of that. His glances have always been stolen by Hinota throughout his journey. Her alluring and captivating body… it was enough to rattle Kudo.
However, making her into a possible companion in love made Kudo’s heart beat faster than normally. He could never consider such a thing. The obvious reason is that Hinota is his best friend. Ignoring such a powerful friendship just because he was interested in her is a great insult to not only Hinota, but to himself as a man.
Though, that still did not stop him from looking at Hinota’s beauty.
“Still, she is quite a catch, isn’t she?”
Trun commented, making a grin that made Kudo blush from his words. He gazed downwards to avoid eye contact in this state.
“Y-Yeah, she really is.”
He answered truthfully. For this question, he will never lie about.
“I’m sure you must have gone through lots of trouble because of this, like from other guys who wanted to be with her.”
“Ah, I did,” Kudo folded his arms as he tells his story. “There were lots of guys who weren’t intimidated by Hinota’s eyes, and often asked her to party with them. However, when they tried to talk to me to convince Hinota to quit my party, after hearing my level, they would run away instantly…”
Kudo took a moment to remember the hilarious moments between the would-be suitors for Hinota’s companionship, yet they completely falter from their awesome might.
Hearing it for himself, a cold sweat ran down Trun’s back and head as he awkwardly gave a wry laugh.
“Haha, that’s my boy. You gotta show to her that you can be the man that she can rely on.”
Hearing his father’s words and the gentle smile on his face, Kudo blushed after hearing about protecting Hinota, not in the adventures, but in social life when other men wanted Hinota for themselves.
However, Kudo had no intention of shirking off those kinds of responsibilities in the first place.
“Don’t worry—I’ll always have her back!”
Seeing his furrowed brows, Trun grinned as he tightens his fist. Kudo noticed it and did the same as the two touched each other’s knuckles with their own.
It is a pact between men of the Braven family to protect the ones they care about.
Though the sound of rain has not subsided yet, the steamy atmosphere around the bathhouse has dulled their senses for the moment.
Submerged in the hot, steaming water in the large tub at the women’s bathhouse were only two women who had the time to get in early.
Hinota, her lower body below her voluptuous chest was within the confines of the hot water. The warm liquid warming Hinota’s silky-white skin, pushing out all the exhaustion that has been piling up in her.
She raised her toned yet thin arms upwards, meekly grunting while stretching her arms before finally releasing the pressure, making her her arms fall back into the warm bath.
“Mmh, it’s so nice…”
Hinota’s hair was let loose, her tie was with the rest of her clothes in a basket outside the bath.
“It sure is, isn’t it? I never thought I would bathe in such a large bath. It’s so spacious!”
The other woman, Meiki, had her elbows rests on the edge of the bath, fully exposing her chest without a care in the world while having a relaxed expression.
But then she stole a glance at Hinota, peeking at her while her chin was raised. Seeing such a body on such a young woman like her, it’s unreal.
“Hinota, you have such an incredible body. It’s no wonder that you must be popular with the boys.”
Despite the fog, she could still see clearly her well-defined features now that Hinota was fully nude, and offers her compliments.
Hearing such a compliment would be normal for Hinota. When she hears it from a guy, she expected that he was attracted to her. When she hears it from a girl, in one way or another, they were jealous of her.
But somehow, coming from Meiki, she feels extremely embarrassed. For once, she wanted to hide away her breasts and body by covering them with her arms.
“Oh my, you’re so bashful, aren’t you~?”
Seeing such a reaction got Meiki to giggle, trying to stifle it with her hand. But as laughter ensues, Hinota’s blushing face became more apparent through the steamy air.
“I wonder, though… is this how you got Kudo to be with you?”
Hinota’s head let out more steam than the bath did from hearing such a scandalous question.
“N-No, I did not!”
She retorts back at Meiki, unwillingly showing a scowl. However, rather than being afraid, she laughs hysterically.
“Oh, I’m just kidding you~ You’re so cute when you get embarrassed like that!”
Hinota’s eyes widened, her cheeks burn hotter than the bath water. She lowered her chin into the water, air bubbling from her mouth.
“I-I know you were just…”
Hinota surprised herself with what she said. She knew that it was meant to be humorous, but she took it seriously. Flames of embarrassment burn in her belly, her face becoming steaming hot as she realized her mistake.
“Well, I shouldn’t have made such a rude remark. I’m sorry, Hinota.”
“N-No… I shouldn’t have overreacted.”
“My, but being like that, tell me, do you like to be with Kudo?”
“…O-Of course I do.”
“Hehe, I’m so happy for him~”
She responded with a smile. Hinota couldn’t handle looking at her eyes any further and looked away.
(Why does this make me feel so weird…)
The girls were refreshed as they headed towards their room wearing their inside clothing.
Meiki’s hair swung about, the smell of soap that she hardly uses before wafts from it. She wore a simple white shirt and long, stretchy cream pants.
Hinota’s hair was tied into a ponytail since she prefers it that way, wearing a black sleeveless shirt and short pants that show off her slender, toned body.
After turning the corner and into the hallway, they open up the parents’ door and enter inside.
They saw Kudo and Trun sitting on Trun’s bed, facing each other with solemn faces. The reason for such a serious look is because they had poker cards on the bed, and a couple of them in their hands.
“… Your show, Dad.”
Kudo spoke with a cool tone, his eyes glinted. Trun responded by lowering his brow.
He proudly exclaimed by showing his cards—4 of diamonds, 5 of spades, 6 of hearts, 7 of diamonds, and 8 of clubs.
“A straight! Hehe, don’t worry, son. Sometimes fate gives to those who are fortunate.”
He proudly shouted, already knowing that it was his win. But Kudo only responded with a gentle smile.
“I agree. Flash!”
Mimicking his father, he showed his own hand: Jack of spades, 10 of spades, 9 of spades, 8 of spades, and 7 of spades.
“Wha—?!” Trun gaped with his eyes opened wide.
“A straight flush. Call it.”
He flashed a glinting grin, leaving his father to drop his cards.
Seeing Trun fall to his back on the bed with Kudo laughing like a child, the girls saw this scene with a cold sweat running down their heads, despite the fact that they just bathed.
“Ah, I’m so sorry to show you this, Hinota…”
Meiki felt that she should apologize for the men in her family.
“Don’t worry about it… though, since when did we get poker cards?”
Hearing Hinota ask that question, Kudo turns back to find that the women have returned.
“Hey, you two! We were just playing with the cards I bought today for this occasion.”
“Kudo, you bought them?”
Hinota asks as she headed over to the bed, curious about the cards.
The poker cards had small pictures of monsters on each card. The icons for the cards showed pictures of differently shaped monsters that represented the real ones.
“It was a while ago. After I saw the pictures, I was enticed to get them… and poker has been really fun for me lately.”
Kudo rubbed the back of his head sheepishly as he put on a silly smile.
Hinota now remembered the fact that she influenced Kudo into playing such games thanks to the gambling they occasionally do. Thanks to Kudo’s incredible luck, they would run the place dry and quickly leave before they got into any trouble.
Hinota felt a sting in her heart knowing that she has corrupted Kudo, and his parents were there to see that.
“Ah, man! Kudo, you’re incredible! You didn’t cheat, didya? I know I raised you better than that.”
“Of course I haven’t! Don’t blame me for cheating. Blame fate for not giving you enough.”
“Gah~!” Trun felt his heart cracking apart from Kudo’s comeback.
“He got you there, Trun. Though, do try to be quieter. There are other people in this inn trying to sleep.”
Meiki admonished Trun for his loud voice, making Trun’s body shrink back and sheepishly rubbing his head, apologizing quietly.
“Now then, Kudo, if I can take you away from your father for a moment, can I ask you to take me to the kitchen? I’d really like to see some of the food they make here!”
Meiki asked Kudo by clasping her hands together with a smile.
“Oh, sure. I’ll take you there. Hinota, I’ll be back soon.”
Getting a nod from Hinota, Kudo leads Meiki out of the room.
“She’s taking this rather well,” Seeing as the two were by themselves, Hinota started a conversation with Trun. “I heard it’s the first time you two had such good services, is that right?”
“Yep, though I think Meiki might do more than just observe. She’s the kind that gets really personal when wasting valuable ingredients in a kitchen.”
Hinota knew that in their household, wasting ingredients was bad for them, so Meiki had the job to make sure that she cooks enough to get them fed for a long time. Reminding herself of their past living made her believe that she was acting arrogantly entitled.
Seeing her quiet, Trun looked away with a mild discomfort. He scratches his cheek, and then made a resolve within himself.
“Hinota,” He spoke solemnly. “Can I ask you something?”
Trun sat cross-legged on the bed, clasping of his hands on his knees.
Hinota turns to him, her eyes widened, “Sure… what is it?”
Seeing such a different demeanor from him, Hinota straightened herself up.
Trun put on a serious look, his eyes locked on Hinota’s slanted eyes.
She knew that he was on guard from hearing her answer. After processing in a fast pace in her high [INT] mind, she realizes that he asked for the sole purpose of figuring out Hinota’s intentions with Kudo.
She lowered her brows, and responded truthfully:
“Kudo’s character needs to be developed more, but other than that, he is a fine man. Someone that I would trust with my life.”
She had no intention to lie. If she did, she fears that she might disappoint Trun. So she answered the best she could from her own heart.
Trun hung his head back in surprise, a wide look from his eyes. After a while, he looks like he cursed himself as he brushed his head furiously.
“Gah, I’m sorry. I didn’t mean to judge you like that,” He spoke in an apologetic tone.
“What do you mean?”
For a moment, he turned quiet. Hinota felt uneasy after seeing such a playful father becoming serious. Then he slaps his knee with a loud force, surprising Hinota.
“Alright. I’ll tell you. To be honest, I really hate nobles.”
Hinota’s eyes widened and her heart tightened. The sudden declaration of hatred put Hinota in a tight spot.
Does this mean that, as a former noble herself, Trun doesn’t want her to be near Kudo? She listens intently to his reasoning.
“But you’re different. I can tell that you’re a nice girl who had some complications in her life. I should have realized this, but I’m an idiot, so I had to ask.”
He weaved his words together to try to ease her worries. Thankfully, they did their job right as Hinota’s heart calmed down after hearing his meaning.
After a while, she asked: “W-Why do you hate nobles?”
She was reluctant to ask this, but she had to know.
“Yeah, I figured you would ask that. Alright… see, in the past, I dealt with tons of nobles.”
“Tons of them?”
“Yeah… and none of them were pleasant experiences.”
She could tell that a sort of animosity was tinged in his words.
“The last one I met was even worse. It involved Kudo…”
Hearing Kudo’s name, Hinota’s eyes widened and stepped in.
“W-What happened to Kudo?!”
She asked, not realizing her sudden increase in her tone.
For a moment, he was flabbergasted, then he smiled warmly, as if he realized something good.
“See, it happened about 10 years ago, when Kudo had his 5th birthday. He just got the guidebook, and he got super excited and daydreamed about being an Adventurer all the time.”
Contradicting his earlier sentiment, Trun showed a sense of happiness in his words. Hinota thought that he was reminded of Kudo’s innocence in the past.
■ ■ ■
The sky was blue and clear, the sun burning shining bright high in the sky.
Kudo was patted on his head, looked up at his parents with a round face and eyes full of wonder. Trun could remember that easily.
He and Meiki went to a nearby store to sell to the vendor in a town outside Arkhem. It’s the town they usually go to whenever they needed to make a sale. After successfully bargaining, they gained enough to cover the present for Kudo’s birthday.
When they got out, the parents saw Kudo running around with never-ending energy, imagining that he was flying gained by a skill as an adventurer.
It was then that, without them noticing, two guards were passing by, and behind them, a single man wearing well-decorated clothing.
Without meaning to, Kudo bumped into the noble from his running around, getting the guards and especially the noble to take notice.
The man was big, a bit heavy on the belly, so Kudo was pushed back from the force. He looked up, and saw the man’s fat and bearded face.
He spoke gently, looking up at the huge man whose face contorted into a scowl.
The big shadow that enveloped Kudo’s entire body grew wider, and widened his eyes after seeing a part of him move.
Kudo’s entire body was kicked, pain formed all over his body as the small child fell to the ground a few feet away.
“ “Kudo!!” ”
The parents dashed in as quick as they could. The mother saw to the trembling boy quiver on the ground from the pain. The father knelt down to be with his wife and child, his face forming into anger itself.
“Worthless brat. Don’t touch me with your filthy rags. Swine like you should stay in the pen where you belong!”
The noble snorted, a scoff left his mouth. He looked down onto the farmers, to the child specifically, with his beady eyes.
The boy looked up in fear, pain coursing through his body while tears welled in his eyes.
Trun nearly lost it. He was about to push himself up before Meiki stopped him with both her hands.
“Stop, please. Don’t move…”
Meiki said in a quivering tone. She was biting onto her lips enough for them to bleed. Trun saw the look in her eyes. They told him to take it quietly, or they will suffer more than this injustice.
“Phht, useless. Let’s move out of here! I had enough of this sniveling town…”
The noble saw the reactions of the farmer and became disinterested. He let out another scoff as he had the guards straightened themselves up, and faced the other way as they left.
The parents looked after the child, only to see Kudo trembling in fear, his eyes looking somewhat empty…
■ ■ ■
Hinota tightened her fists, and her baring teeth showed enough fury to get even Trun taken aback.
In her mind, she wanted to find this noble, and use her vast wealth to shame him enough for him to become completely bankrupt.
The worse of it all is that she recalls meeting that kind of noble before.
A fat, selfish noble that would often praise the Flamver family with empty compliments. She could recall meeting him, shamelessly rubbing his hands together in front of her parents as he utters out words that she heard dozens of times over.
It may not have been the same man that has cruelly kicked a child, but she could tell that their souls were rotten, and their hearts were black as coal.
“Hinota… I’m sorry. I know that we weren’t right to just let it happen either.”
“It’s not your fault! If you would have attacked the nobles then, if Meiki hadn’t stopped you, you would have been taken away! Or your family could have suffered a huge debt that you could never pay off. That’s how those stupid nobles work!”
She could tell the reason why the noble stayed quiet as he did. The reason for that is because getting pushed by a child wouldn’t look good, but if he was attacked by a farmer, he could manipulate the information, and make it so that Trun would be branded as a criminal.
She felt ashamed, knowing that it is how nobles usually react to as entertainment for themselves. She never felt gladder for Meiki who stepped in to stop Trun’s righteous rage.
“Yeah… I would have made a big mistake. After that, I never hated nobles more than I did now.”
Hinota saw Trun’s hand tightened into a fist. A fist made out of frustration for the noble, and anger for himself for not being able to do anything about it.
“It was also that time that made Kudo… scared of people.”
Trun admitted painfully, getting Hinota’s attention.
“He thought it was his fault. He didn’t understand the crappy relationship of nobles and commoners. But he did understand that he angered that bastard, and those words he said were stuck on him. He must have kept thinking that he really was worthless.”
Hinota could see it in her mind. The once innocent Kudo, now turned fearful of his surroundings and his behavior. She could literally see the connection.
The reason for his fear of people was due to his traumatic experience of meeting a noble. Her heart wrenched in pain.
(If he had figured about the relationship between commoner and noble, would he hate nobles then?)
The idea of Kudo hating her made her heart uneasy. She didn’t want that at all.
And the cause of it all was that evil noble.
“H-Hinota, calm down, okay…?”
Hinota’s mind returns to reality, and notices Trun’s frightened expression.
She realizes now that her face put on an incredible scowl, her slanted eyes created an imagery that left Trun incredibly frightened.
“Ah, I-I’m sorry for showing such a shameless look…”
She quickly apologizes, returning her expression to its normal, sharp look.
“A-Ah, don’t worry about it… still, I didn’t think you would look so scary.”
Trun made his joke, trying to grin to ward off the awkward atmosphere. However, it made Hinota take a huge hit to her pride, and hung her head low in despair.
She looks up, seeing Trun forming a smile.
“Thanks for showing me that,” Trun smiled as he continued: “You’re the first person that he opened his heart to after a long time… I hope that you can get him to break out of his shell, and become the person he wants to be.
He spoke gently, letting out the words from his heart.
Hinota’s heart lessened its rage, forming into happiness as she returned a smile at him.
The door opens, revealing Kudo and Meiki whose voices overlapped.
“I’m telling you, mom! Don’t just go in and taste their food! It was so embarrassing!”
“I had to say, though. Their food is pretty good… though I don’t like how they waste such perfectly good eggshells.”
Kudo sighs after hearing Meiki’s nonchalant response. He then saw Hinota and Trun facing each other.
“What’s up? You guys talking about something?”
“A-Ah, it’s nothing, Kudo! Don’t worry about it!” Hinota stammered, but put on a look of composure.
“Yeah, I was just telling her some stories about you!”
“D-Dad! Don’t tell stuff like that!”
Kudo’s cheeks blush to his ears as he ran up to Trun while furrowing his brows. Trun laughs while Meiki shared a giggle, having an idea about what they were truly talking about.
“Oh…” Suddenly, Kudo became quiet.
“Mmh?” Trun notices. “What’s up?”
“Umm… Mom, Dad, there’s something that I want to ask you guys about…”
Kudo straightens himself up, getting everyone in the room to take heed.
“It’s… about my Class.”