Hour Empty Child
The tension rose in the room as the rain continues with its loud showering outside the inn.
Just like before, Kudo and Hinota sat in one bed, with Trun and Meiki sitting at the other. Kudo has his back hunched, his arms huddled together in front of him as his eyes furrowed.
“Mom, Dad, I really want to know about my Class. It’s been bothering me for a while now. I’m sure you must have noticed the Class when I showed you my status.”
Kudo showed the front of his right hand to his parents. The mark on his hand was still there, hardly visible, showing his special Class.
It was a strange mark. It was as if it was burnt or scratched—it couldn’t be made out properly, even if a veteran adventurer were to read it.
Trun and Meiki knew that the adventurer’s class is revealed from their hands. They also kept quiet when they saw the question marks in his status screen before. Seeing that, the two shared a complex look on their faces.
“Did we belong in some kind of family? Like a family that had a special class, then it just… disappeared? I have so many questions, and I wanted to ask you about them. I couldn’t ask it in the letters, because I didn’t want to confuse you and worry you. But, now that we’re here… I want to know.”
He stared at his parents, hoping for an answer.
Trun turned to Meiki as she looked back. Trun rubbed his head furiously, pursing his lips. Meiki gazed downwards, as if she has just received shocking news.
“Should we… tell him?”
“We should… I always felt guilty about him not knowing about it.”
The two shared a nod, and then turned to Kudo.
“Kudo, the truth is, we don’t really know… since we have no clue who your family is.”
“Kudo,” Meiki spoke softly. “You… are not blood-related to us.”
For a moment, all the color on Kudo’s face turned white. Hinota’s slanted eyes widened. She turned to Kudo, looking quite shocked..
However, after a while, Hinota saw Kudo’s face relaxing.
His eyes became distant, and somehow, he formed a small smile.
“…Guess I saw it coming,” He said, surprising both his parents and Hinota.
“Y-You knew?” Trun asks, showing the same surprised look.
“Y-Yeah… though it was kinda like a hunch. I always wondered how I was different from you guys… it was mostly because of this.”
Kudo raises his hand and grabs a lock of his hair. His soft, azure-colored hair contradicts Trun’s brown hair and Meiki’s green hair.
The parents felt stupefied after finding such a simple reason.
For Hinota, she already knew about that difference the moment she saw his parents for the first time. But she didn’t have the courage to ask about it and thought it was too personal.
“Well, there were a lot of differences. Like how I like to be an adventurer, and not a farmer. But I thought that was mostly because of personal tastes. I get that. There was also that none of the villagers even tell me about it, and just act like its natural.”
As he explains, he felt the differences were widening. He exhaled, showing a wider smile.
“To be honest, I always felt different from everyone else.”
Those words, without meaning to, cut a deep wound in everyone’s hearts.
“I’m guessing… you got me from an orphanage when I was a baby?”
Kudo asks, getting everyone out of their trance.
“A-Ah, not exactly… we found you at our doorstep.”
Kudo could not remember at all. It was the time when he was a baby, after all.
“Yeah, you were wrapped in this really soft blanket, though it was kinda dirty. You were crying so much, it would have woken up the entire village that night.”
Trun could remember the piercing cries from that day in his past. Meiki then continued:
“That blanket is where we got your name ‘Kudo’ from. Your name was embroidered on it.”
Meiki nodded. Kudo kept his eyes widened.
“I-I see…” Kudo fidgets a little. “D-Did it include my last name?”
“No… it only included your name. When we decided to take you in, we gave you our name, Braven, to use as your surname.”
Kudo was left silent, getting Meiki to continue:
“We think that your Class might have something to do with the one who gave birth to you. That’s what we believe.”
They answered truthfully. Hinota could tell that, but the look on Kudo’s face did not change.
Despite having a feeling of it, when it became the truth, it was still hard to swallow.
As the moment passed, Kudo finally asked:
“Why… did you kept this a secret all this time?”
The two glanced at each other, then turned to Kudo.
“We didn’t want you to feel different. We thought that if we told you, you would think that you’re not part of the family…”
Meiki spoke what was worrying her heart this whole time.
“There was also that you might have wanted to see them, but knowing what happened, we thought that they weren’t good people. We didn’t want you to go out and nearly kill yourself for this.”
Trun clasps onto his knees, his fingers clutching tightly to it showed his tension.
Kudo now heard the reason for the secrecy. It was for his protection. His mental well-being. However, it still felt too much to bear.
Knowing that your parents weren’t really blood-related. Knowing that someone in somewhere has abandoned you. Knowing that you were different than all the others.
He knew it all along, but he didn’t feel good being right about it.
Then, his hand suddenly became warm.
He looked back at his side to see Hinota’s gentle smile.
It was a smile that spoke all the words he needed to know:
‘It’s gonna be alright.’
Seeing such a smile, the perturbed feeling from before gradually became lesser as the warmth of his hand filled his mind.
“Kudo! I just want you to know!”
Meiki suddenly shouts, catching his and Hinota’s attention.
“You’re still our child. It doesn’t matter if we’re blood-related or not. You will always be my boy who I raised and loved and will always love!”
“Your mother’s right! Even if you find your real parents someday, I’ll never forget the times we shared! You’ll always be my little man!”
His parents cry out the words from within their hearts, both staring right at Kudo’s eyes.
The warmth from Hinota’s hand, and the support from his parents. The dark feeling that was enveloping in his heart has disappeared.
He formed a smile on his lips. A smile that shows his inner feelings clearly.
“Yeah… I would rather stay a Braven anyways!”
His parents had tears welled up in their eyes, and before long, broke into a hug, grasping Kudo tightly.
Hinota was taken aback by this, but quickly realizes that this was how a family should be. As she formed a smile, Meiki extended her hand, and pulled Hinota’s hand towards them.
“You’re included too! You’re part of our family now!”
Meiki suddenly shouted, bringing Hinota into the Braven hug.
Her heart was racing, and her cheeks were blushing faintly, but in the next moment, she felt the strongest warmth that she ever felt.
Her heart lightened. Her body was becoming warmer to the point of her forgetting the boundaries between personal space.
She hugged Kudo too along with his parents. It was a moment that felt like it could last forever.
Once they have cleared the air, the PlusFire and the parents headed off to sleep in their own rooms until the sun barely rose up.
The heavy rain that has gone on for hours before is now just a slight drizzle.
The sun’s rays were shining through the gray clouds that half-covers the sky.
Getting out of the inn, feeling the rare drops of rain hitting his face, Kudo stretched his arms wide to wake up his body.
“Alright,” Kudo said as he turned back to see his companions for their stroll in the city.
The fresh-faced Hinota and his bushy-eyed parents that just got out of bed.
“Man, you guys are upbeat this morning…”
Trun yawned while rubbing his eye along Meiki following suit. Kudo chuckled as he pointed to the direction of the marketplace.
“We need to pick out some good outfits for you guys to wear for the exchange. I can’t have you showing the other farmers looking like that.”
Kudo pointed to their current attire that they were planning on wearing for the exchange. For Trun, a simple checkered shirt and rough pants, and for Meiki, a yellow blouse and purple long skirt.
“It’s fine, isn’t it? It’s not like we’re there to impress them,” Trun rubbed his head as he said in a tired tone.
“We can’t have that,” Hinota intervened. “A good way to impress other farmers in giving valuable information to you is to give a good impression.
You gotta say with just one look ‘I’ll make you succeed, but only if you pay up.’."
“There you go. She’s an expert when it comes to things like these.”
Kudo smiled, folding his arms as he and Hinota led the way towards the bazaar. The parents glanced at each other and shrugged as they followed behind them.
The party, made up of the parents and the PlusFire, reached to the marketplace where seemingly dozens of buildings lined up for them to comb through. They would plow through those stores, looking for the perfect outfits for the farmers who weren’t used to going out to social meetings.
Hinota used her profound knowledge of fashion, since Kudo had no good design mentality whatsoever, to find the stores that had those outfits.
Though, some of the stores that she enters through were too much for the parents, as one of the outfits they sold were over a 100,000 jib.
“ “That’s just too much!” ”
They were consistent in not letting their son pay too much for them.
Though Kudo explained dozens of times that he didn’t mind, the parents had something called parental pride that didn’t want their son to get them the most expensive items.
So Hinota resigned herself to pick out the cheap stores that had good quality clothing.
“I’m sorry, Hinota,” On their way, Kudo apologized suddenly. “I wish my parents could just understand that it was okay…”
“Don’t worry about it,” Hinota responded, a fire burning within her chest. “This is like a challenge to me. Find the perfect clothes with the cheapest price—This is getting exciting!”
Somehow, Hinota was getting excited the more hurdles she had to go through. Kudo couldn’t help but enjoy seeing her determination.
As the early morning was about to become an early noon, Hinota has finally found the perfect store.
The store was a stone building with a sign out front that says ‘Open’. Alongside the other stores, it was fairly small, but once they got inside, the quality of the clothing outmatched every other clothing she has found so far.
The style was simplistic, but each clothing that was showcasing blended together naturally, their colors perfectly aligned with the shape of the clothes.
“That was easier than I thought. As expected of me~”
Hinota tooted her own horn in pride, Kudo and his parents laughing wryly as she picked out each outfit which fits the parents remarkably.
They weren’t formal, but their black colored design made them think that the parents came from a rich organization. It was simplistic, and at the same time, it was neatly decorated enough to impress Kudo’s farmer’s mind.
And the most important of all, they were cheap—just below 100,000 jib for each.
“T-This is still a little bit too much…”
“Uwaah, I always wanted to wear something like this~”
Though Trun was slightly against such expensive clothing, being a woman herself, Meiki enjoyed every minute of it, giving herself a tiny spin to show off her splendid dress.
“Hinota has such good fashion sense! I’m so glad to have myself such a splendid daughter!”
“W-What are you talking about, Mom?!”
Suddenly hearing the word ‘daughter’ made Kudo and Hinota blush to their ears. Kudo screamed at his mother while waving his hands in a panic.
After that slight awkwardness, Kudo went ahead and paid the vendor for the clothing, giving the vendor an impressed look before bowing in appreciation.
They soon left the store as Kudo saw that the sun was shining right in the middle of the sky, no gray clouds in sight.
“Hey, you guys don’t have much time left. It’s almost time for the exchange.”
He looked back at his parents, wearing their usual clothing as they check out the sun themselves.
“Ah, we took a lot of time after all…”
“Ooh, and I wanted to enjoy shopping with my children a little bit more…”
Kudo shouted, his cheeks blushed madly as his mother’s laughter filled the air.
“Well, we don’t want to take too much of your time anyways. You guys wanted to… ‘grind’ a little, right?”
Meiki tried to replicate the complicated word Kudo said before they started.
“Yeah. I don’t like the idea of wasting too much time doing nothing, so Hinota and I are going to kill some monsters. Probably take some quests to finish quickly in the Adventurer’s Guild.”
Kudo and Hinota, while walking around, noticed the Adventurer’s Guild which was at the center of the city. Though since Vipory is much more of a commercialized city, the Adventurer’s Guild doesn’t have as many adventurers. It became to the point that the building itself was quite smaller compared to other guilds.
“We also need to get used to our new strength quickly so we can go after some stronger monsters.”
Hinota folded her arms, imagining the battles that will come for them in the future.
“I don’t like the idea of Kudo and Hinota going after even stronger monsters… but if it makes you survive longer, than what more could I ask for?”
Meiki turned back to Hinota, and grabbed her hands together with hers.
“Hinota, look after my son, okay? That includes any kind of slutty woman who’s after his chastity.”
“You got it, Meiki. I won’t let them put their grubby hands on even a strand of his hair!”
“That’s my girl!”
The girls’ eyes shot out a spark of comradeship between them, leaving the men taken aback by this sudden alliance.
“Now then,” Meiki’s expression changed quickly to a smiling one. “Come on, honey, let’s go!”
“R-Right! Kudo, be careful. Hinota, you too!”
Trun shouted as he and Meiki turned around to head to the Sparkling Oasis, the meeting place for the exchange.
Kudo and Hinota were left on the side of the street as Kudo turned to Hinota.
“So, let’s get ready to go!”
“Yeah,” Hinota responded to Kudo’s words, readying her bag. But then—
Hinota perked her ears up after hearing something neighing in the distance.
She looked back, and saw two horses driving a carriage, and the color of that carriage caught her attention and made her wide-eyed.
It was a crimson-gold carriage, the carved drawings and the beaming shine from the glossy exterior made it obvious that it was a property of a regal family.
More than that, it was a family that she belonged to.
“Mmh…? Hey, isn’t that…?”
Kudo turned after hearing the same sounds, widening his eyes after seeing a familiar face driving it.
Kudo shouted as he and Hinota ran up to the edge of the street right where the carriage stopped. The driver, Maon, the messenger of the Flamver family, was in the front seat as he directed his sight onto the two.
“Lady Hinota, it has been a while.”
Maon spoke with a respectful tone to his master, his sharp eyes on the young woman, and then to the young man.
“The same to you as well, Mr. Braven.”
“H-Hey! How’s it been?” (Was that too informal…?)
Kudo waved, showing a stiff smile as he felt that he was too close for comfort.
“What are you doing here, Maon? Have you come bearing news?”
Hinota, once again, fell into her formal tone, her regal side coming out.
“Yes,” Maon answered, but then showed a stiff expression. “However, it is something that… requires only you. I’m sorry, Mr. Braven, but may I have a moment with Lady Hinota?”
“U-Uh, sure. Of course.”
Kudo wasn’t the kind to impede on family business, so he turned to Hinota.
“Hinota, I’ll be waiting at the north gate, alright?”
“Mmh, see ya there.”
Switching to her informal tone, Hinota nodded to Kudo as he reacted with a smile before turning around towards his direction.
A deep feeling of anxiety welled in her heart. She felt her throat dry when she faced Maon again.
“Now… what is it?”