Hour Empty Child
Sounds of yelps and cries resounded in the air. Within the sea of green leaves were the sounds of monsters’ lives ending in a flash.
With every slash, strike, and boom reverberating alongside the screams, the monsters way of life were pushed on the edge as two adventurers rampaged in the forest.
The forest’s name was Tranquil Forest, but there was nothing tranquil about it right now. The monsters that lived there were small quadruped monsters called Rhiny, which specialized in using their single large horn on their armored heads to attack, and using their heavily armored bodies for their defense. They also had several defense mechanisms in case something happens, but everyone figured that it’s just a legend they had for themselves.
The reason for the city’s constant usage of the rain was solely due to the high-level monsters living around the area. Fortunately, the Rhinies are territorial monsters. They have no need to go out of the forest as they were satisfied with their own area.
But it is different when somebody enters into their area. Even if by accident, the Rhinies would go search for the intruder, and impale them with a powerful thrust of their horns. If one is cautious, they can evade the gaze of a Rhiney and did not have to face them at all. However, if they were found, the Rhinies’ superior strength, along with moderate speed, is enough to topple any unlucky low-level adventurer that they come across
But now the Rhinies were running from their own territory as the PlusFire entered into the forest for a slight grinding time.
However, as the battles waged, the two of them faced their own issues.
Within the clear area between trees—a clear grassland with some rocks strewn about, and a clear blue sky above them—two beings head into each other to clash.
A Rhiny was facing off against a single female adventurer, her katana clashing furiously against the large horn on the Rhiny’s head.
The both of them pushed each other off, jumping back to gain distance. The Rhiny bellows, trying to intimidate the female adventurer.
But the girl only flicked away the ponytail flowing around her face, revealing her slanted, sharp eyes that somehow intimidated the Rhiny instead.
“Don’t bitch out now. The fun’s getting started.”
Hinota grinned, the look of her eyes showing a small fire that burned intensely.
The Rhiny stepped back, as if a cold sweat ran down its armored skin. But it stood strong, stomping the ground enough to cause a small crater beneath its studded feet.
After scraping against the ground with its foot, the Rhiny charged forward, its powerful charge breaking the ground beneath it as it made its final attack with its horn.
They were powerful physical monsters. Boasting incredible attack, defense, and even speed, the monster known as the Rhiny is a force to be reckoned with.
However, Hinota remained still, only drawing her sleek and sharp katana overhead, combusting its blade into flames.
Her grin never left her face.
She slashed down in front of her, releasing fire that was shaped like an arc.
Its powerful lunge forward made it impossible for the Rhiny to stop or even move aside from such the fast flaming arc that left a blazing trail behind.
The only choice it could make, the only instinct, is to charge through it.
The poor monster did not stand a chance.
The fiery arc passed through the middle of the Rhiny. The rhiny continued to charge for only a few seconds before it stopped, standing still. In the next moment, a straight line was created in the middle. It was bisected, both halves fell over as they combusted into flames.
The only weakness that the Rhiny suffers from was their magical defense. It was disappointingly low. Despite being created by corrupted mana, there are some monsters who gains a disability, so to speak, creating a weakness which makes them susceptible to strong magical attacks.
The【Flare Wave】 is Hinota’s newly learned skill after reaching Class Up. Unlike her usual frontal attacks from her usual skills, her new skill relies solely on Magic Attack. The new attack has completely singed the monster to a crisp.
Seeing the reaction, Hinota sighed. She already saw this many times already that the sight became droll.
She fought off against the Rhinies multiple times, hoping to make a decent opponent for her to raise her stats on. However, the Rhiny’s attacks were too easy to repel, and it hardly took her anytime before she could actually slice their slow bodies apart with her high Sharpness katana made by Kudo.
The fights were so disappointing to the point where Hinota gave up on fighting them, and just blasted them with her fire spells.
However, behind her listless eyes was a concern growing inside her heart.
Maon’s words about her forceful return weigh heavily on her mind. However, Hinota’s highly intelligent mind was able to put it aside. Thanks to the [INT] stat increasing, her mind was working faster than normal. Even as she thought about raising her stats and was becoming bored of fighting the rhinies, she was also developing strategies to deal with her parents.
She will do whatever she can to make sure that Kudo, and his village, remains safe.
Even if it might seem to be a foolish plan coming from a girl who’s being forced to come back home, it would only be so for a normal girl. However, Hinota was different. She’s the kind of girl who can topple an entire kingdom if she puts all her efforts into it. Her [INT] stat, reaching nearly a thousand points, has made it so that her mind is sharp, cunning, and frighteningly dangerous.
This is why Hinota can act normally, because she has already made more than hundreds of plans to counter her parents’ greedy schemes.
After figuring out each plan, making sure that there were no issues, she looked back, hoping that Kudo was having fun.
But what she saw got her concerned instead.
The other adventurer by her side, the boy with a distant look in his eyes, was surrounded by two Rhinies. Two of them scraped the ground, the same as the last one, and charged towards the melancholic boy with all their might.
But he didn’t react that strongly. Instead, he only meagerly ran to the other side, getting the two to skid against the ground to stop themselves.
Kudo turned around, a still look on his face.
He shouted it without any impact, just a flat tone, as he let out from his hands a stream of white chain that wraps around the turning Rhinies and bounds them together.
The Rhinies tried to break free, but the constant usage of the chains leveled up their proficiency, making them less susceptible to break from force.
The Rhinies were now huddled together, constantly squirming and scraping against each other’s armor trying to break free from these powerful binds.
Once again, without much energy, he threw several bombs at them. He already knew that their weaknesses were magical attacks, so he held nothing back as he watched the bombs glowing brighter with each second passed.
Several explosions took place, burning the Rhinies apart with a flurry of explosions in a single spot.
The sullen boy looked at the explosion without any reaction, the surging wave of hot air blowing on his face and body without a care.
As the explosions withered, the Rhinies tied up in chains were no more—just like the last one, they were left as burnt husks of their former selves.
Finally, the boy sighed.
Hinota was impressed at the entire spectacle. Not the part where Kudo singlehandedly defeated two powerful Rhinies with just a support skill and a time bomb skill.
But the part where he did it all without caring about his surroundings or his own safety. His thoughts were completely misplaced—that was shown on his face this entire time.
Then, Hinota spots something at the corner of her eyes.
The monsters who were nothing but burnt husks had formed cracks down the middle, revealing a part of the armor which wasn’t singed.
The armor squirted some kind of green liquid right at Kudo which drenched his right arm.
Hinota shouted, getting Kudo to widen his eyes as he noticed the strange liquid that has adorned his arm.
The liquid remained still on his arm, but the next second, steam could be seen coming from the liquid as it slowly evaporates.
“A-Ahh! It burns!”
Kudo quickly panics, his body fell to the ground, using the grass to wipe off the scalding liquid. Kudo’s screams lasted a while as Hinota ran to give him aid.
After a short while, Kudo’s arm was practically burnt. The liquid was powerful enough to burn through the armor, burning his skin off. It was now singed to the point of blood pouring out.
“Geez, this is what happens when you get distracted, Kudo!”
Hinota scolded the now remorseful Kudo as he felt Hinota’s words piercing through him while his arm still burns slightly.
“S-Sorry… but don’t worry! I got this!”
Kudo returned to his normal self, putting his other hand on his arm, covering the wound. Kudo closed his eyes and inhaled.
Kudo’s hand glows white, the light which would blind ordinary people. Though Kudo’s eyes were stronger than normal, it still made him half-closed them.
The light dulled, then faded away. Kudo removed his hand to show the wound.
The wound was no longer hideous to look at. There were still parts of opened skin where blood streamed down, however, the burnt skin was nowhere in sight.
【Plus Clear】. A new supportive type of skill that Kudo learned from his Class Up. What’s even more incredible is that it was a priceless skill.
A skill that ‘clears’, or rather, recovers the body from any status ailments.
Though, once again, the skill was unclear on its effects, and sure enough, Kudo had difficulty trying to figure it out.
It was only by chance, increased by his amazing [LUK] stat, that he managed to find out its usage after an ironic, unlucky encounter with a mushroom-type monster.
He was poisoned badly by a wild Poiroom, a monster that uses poison as its defensive technique, and used the skill to clear away his status ailment, thinking that it might be some kind of healing skill.
Though, the kind of ailments that could be cleared is a mystery, but so far, the worse the status is, the more proficiency the skill gains. And so far, they replaced their cleansers with his skill in order to level it. Of course, they still keep some around just in case there was an emergency.
“This skill is pretty handy! Though it still pretty weird…”
Kudo commented, rubbing his head sheepishly as Hinota gave a relieving sigh.
“Kudo, let’s take a break.”
She smiled as she had to say it. Otherwise, Kudo’s awkward way of fighting will become dangerous, even if they were fighting easy monsters for themselves.
Kudo nodded. He wasn’t about to pass up on Hinota’s suggestion.
The two took a stroll down the beaten path in the forest after clearing their enemies. Hinota spotted a good area where she led Kudo to it.
Finding themselves a quite spot between the trees, sitting down on the rocks that provided not much comfort, but good enough to sit on, Hinota asked:
“Kudo, are you okay?” She spoke gently, her eyes solely on Kudo’s expression.
He looked up, seeing the worried look on her face. He felt his heart aching slightly, despite the warm embrace he shared with everyone yesterday night.
He spat out a sigh. “I guess the stuff from yesterday is still getting to me.”
He admitted. Hinota figured that was it, as it was hard to believe.
“Finding out that you were adopted… to be honest, I can’t imagine it at all.”
Living her life as a proud Flamver member of the prominent adventurer family turned noble, she never thought about being adopted herself, due to the obvious share of bloodline and her iconic red hair.
Though, currently, she wished that she was adopted. That way, her parents wouldn’t care about getting her back.
“Yeah. Though, I guess I finally found an answer to why I’m so different from anyone else.”
“You mean the blue hair?”
Hinota brushed his azure hair. She has the privilege to touch him, which she took full advantage of, putting a smile on her face.
“Y-Yeah…” Kudo blushes as he also brushes his hair alongside Hinota. “But that’s not the only thing.”
“Well… I was the only one who loved to be an adventurer. Everyone else was just satisfied with just living their lives working on their day jobs. I always felt distant from them.”
Kudo remembers the memories of constantly fearing on how they think of him.
Since the day of that tragic moment with the noble, he fears other people’s opinion of him.
For his strange liking on such a dangerous job, he thought that he was being a nuisance to everyone were just working on their jobs.
“I sometimes wondered if I really belonged in that village.”
Hinota felt a slight sting in her heart from hearing his honest words. After a while, Hinota smiled.
“Kudo, it doesn’t matter if you were adopted.”
She spoke gently, turning Kudo’s eyes to hers.
“Sure, you might be different physically, but that doesn’t change other people’s opinions.”
“Kudo, don’t you remember? The time when you said goodbye to everyone in the village?”
She sparked the memory of that time when he started his journey. She remembered Kudo telling her this sometime in the past, and the story touched her heart.
His farewell to the village became unexpectedly heartwarming.
Everyone who he thought considered him a nuisance due to his introverted ways came to him to offer their support and farewells. Through all this time, they were worried about how he was living, and became happy knowing that he was going to go on his path.
Remembering the children’s crying faces, and the adults’ unending support, his heart lightened a little.
“See?” Hinota could see the joy swelling from his expression. “No matter what blood you have, you’ll always have a home in that village. And you’ll always be a Braven. Least, that’s how I see you.”
Hinota formed a smile that seemed to brighten up Kudo’s foggy vision, widening his eyes.
“And also, I’m really glad that you were raised in that village too.”
“Eh? Where did that come from?”
“Because if you didn’t, we would never have met.”
Kudo widened his eyes, his mind suddenly sparked to life.
If things were different, he would never have met Hinota. It was enough to rattle his soul and got him to be extremely relieved.
“If you haven’t come to that forest at that moment, I would have lost my life.”
“T-That’s not true! You were more than capable of—”
“I meant my way of living.”
Hinota silenced Kudo, getting him to shut his mouth. Kudo realized what she meant.
“If you haven’t arrogantly told me off about my family, and how wrong I was doing, I wouldn’t have succeeded in that time, and be forced to come back to my family. I wouldn’t be who I am right now.”
Hinota made a warm smile as she recalls when she met Kudo on his very first day which has caused the birth of the PlusFire party.
Seeing that smile, Kudo did the same.
“I’m… glad I did too. If I hadn’t, I wouldn’t have gotten the best friend I could have.”
Kudo blushed a little after saying that. Hinota chuckled from his honesty, getting him to laugh as well. Then, he remembers the moments Hinota had to see and go through from yesterday.
“Hinota, about yesterday… I’m sorry for how my parents treated you.”
“W-Well, they acted however they pleased, and said all that stuff…”
Kudo poked his two index fingers together as he recalls the embarrassing moments his father and mother talked to Hinota about.
Hinota giggles, “Don’t worry about it. Rather, I really enjoyed every minute of it.”
“Yes. I never saw a family that close before. It was really… refreshing. It made me feel like I was part of the family myself. It felt strange… but it was good.”
Hinota could still remember the heat from that embrace. She felt as if she was hugging her real family. The kind of embrace that would usually never happen in her family’s manor as it was inappropriate.
“Y-Yeah… still, I kinda wish that you would forget the strange things they said.”
Kudo’s cheeks blushed faintly as he recalls the idea of marrying told by his parents.
“Nope~ I can never forget it, even if I tried.”
Before Kudo could convince the giggling Hinota, a drop of water fell on his nose.
Kudo and Hinota looked up, seeing the gray clouds and the winds shifting to a colder atmosphere. The rain shower that has dissipated with time before has now returned, with a fully repaired force.
The rain that fell onto the forest, the smell that mixed with nature’s scent along with the rain wafts in the air.
“Ah, come on!”
“Nature really likes to rain on this place, huh?”
Hinota asked as she got curious at how rain always seems to be fixed at this area while Kudo covers his head.
“Stupid rain!” He spatted out his dislike as Hinota got up from her rock seat.
“Let’s get back to the city before it gets worse. Since this city has a reputation for big rainstorms, it’s bound to happen.”
Kudo’s heart suddenly throbbed. A strange feeling surged throughout his body like a current.
Hinota picked up the surprised look on Kudo’s face, making her ask.
(C-Could this be the 【Sixth Sense】 skill that I picked up?)
Kudo vaguely recalls activating his skill a few times in the past. When something happens, it blared like a trumpet in his body, making him react to it.
However, this was different. Unlike before, the feeling surging through him felt as though it was warning him.
His nose picked up a nasty smell, and his stomach gurgled. He felt the strange wave of sickness flowing through his body.
(W-What is this…?!)
His body was stunned, unable to move. The rain continues to hit his body, yet he couldn’t feel the wetness. He could only feel the internal clash of his emotions filled with sickness and anticipation.
It was a foreboding. It came from the opposite direction from the city. His head quickly turned, facing his eyes at the trees that stood in his senses’ path.
His eyes were dead set on the path before him.
Hinota could sense something was wrong. She saw Kudo’s whitening skin, a cold sweat other than the rain running down on him.
His body trembled, and his eyes became wide.
Without knowing it, his body pushed him forward.
Her voice became high-pitched, seeing her best friend ran out without warning towards the dense trees which he evaded as he kept moving forward.
Leaving behind Hinota, he continued to run. Rain hits his face and body as he evaded every tree and rock that stood in his path.
He didn’t know why he was running. For all he knows, it was something that he wanted to stay away from.
Yet, it was the same, sickening feeling that he felt that one time. The time during the Olinia event.
(Is there… a dark monster?)
If there was a dark monster, then he needed to know exactly what it was. After all, if a powerful monster was closing in towards a city with hardly any adventurers, then it was possible that the citizens would be in danger.
That includes his parents. He has no choice but to scope out the possible enemy.
He hoped that it was just the food that he ate at the inn causing this strange sickness, but the sense of foreboding did not go away.
His feet kept running, each time widening their distance from each other to run in wide strides.
Kudo kept running until he found another clearing away from his original position.
Without making any sound, he hid behind a large tree right before the clearing, and peered around it.
Finally seeing the epicenter of all the strange foreboding and sickness he felt.
In the middle of the clearing, there was a single man. Dressed in a black cloak that fluttered endlessly under the rain, the strange feelings of foreboding became stronger as Kudo’s eyes focused on the man’s back.
(Is he… the cause…?)
His eyes widened, and his heart throbbed mercilessly.