Chapter 55:

Vol. 4 Chapter 4: Unable to Reset Part 2

Hour Empty Child


The rain was able to douse the fire that has devoured the bakery store whole within its blaze.

The adventurer who caused such destruction stands in front of the two PlusFire members. Each of them clenched their teeth as Shinezu closed his outstretched hand, leaving only one finger. He wags that one finger at them, his tongue clicked in disapproval.

“Children such as yourselves shouldn’t go around telling such big lies.”

Shinezu acted mischievously, a will of contempt behind his words.

“It is very rude and discourteous. Is that how your parents raised you to be?”

He continued mocking, the sound of his voice starting to grate against their ears. Hinota’s fists clenched tighter, enough for them to shake.

“How… how are you here?! There’s no way that the guard should have let you in!”

Hinota demanded an answer, the very thought of him being here after the guard received the warning from them was completely rejected by her.

Before they ran inside, Hinota gave a very detailed and clear image report to the guard concerning his clothes and facial features. She made sure to the guard that he shouldn’t let him inside the city at all costs.

“Ah, you’re talking about that one guy. It was easy to… convince him.”

Shinezu sneered. A sudden chill pass through Kudo’s nerves.

The dark, swirling aura from his body suddenly expanded, as if it reacted to that statement. Every sickening feeling Kudo felt became stronger at that point.

“Don’t tell me… you… you killed him?”

Hearing Kudo’s realization, Hinota looked at him in shock.

“T-That can’t be…”

Hinota’s outrage was doused by the news. She looked back at Shinezu, only to see a horrifying image.

A murky black mass that seemed to expand further and further. The constant amount of mana emitted from his body alone made Hinota’s eyes widened.

Her body trembled.

She could sense the mana using her skill, 【Mana Affinity】. During her journey, the level gradually increased. She can now sense other people’s mana from a distance.

But his mana was too much, even for Hinota to bear. Her skill was actually making her lose confidence rather than ascertaining her victory.

“Hinota,” Kudo whispered. “This guy… he has that same exact feeling as the dark zombie from before.”

“T-Then he’s as strong as that dark zombie…? How is that…?”

Once she heard those words, everything made sense to her. The massive presence, and the monumental mana. It made sense that his level was far superior to the dark zombie that they failed to hurt, much less kill it.

“I heard you.”

The two turned to Shinezu.

“Hey, you there, the blue-haired boy. Did I hear you right? You were comparing me to a ‘dark zombie’?”

Shinezu asked in a sharp tone to which Kudo didn’t answer. He kept his mouth shut, leaving Shinezu to smirk.

“How interesting. So you have the same thing as her.”

Kudo perked his ears after hearing ‘her’ out of nowhere.

“W-What do you mean?”

“Unfortunately,” Shinezu ignored his question. “I still need some time before my skill, 【10x Explosion】, can activate. My skill can be quite bothersome to set. I had to touch several places underneath the building to mark it with my skill. Not to mention, even getting there is such a pain, having to deal with that annoying fatso all the time… It’s such a drag, and it took so much mana out of me…”

He spoke as if it was a tiresome work day, his voice becoming lax. But it sparked a completely opposite feeling for the PlusFire as it made them agitated.

His next movement caused them to flinch.

He raised his hand and flicked his fingers. A spark of ember flashed in front of them, similar to the starting sequence of Hinota’s Fireball.

“Hinota!”

Kudo shouted, synchronizing with Hinota’s instinct as the both of them drew their weapons from their [Magic Bags], Hinota held her katana, aiming the tip at Shinezu, while Kudo held his bastard sword in the center.

“Whoa, you guys are jumpy,” Shinezu’s surprised tone aggravated the two. “I was just showing the little bit of mana that I have left.”

He said in a joking manner which made Hinota clench her teeth.

With the amount of mana that he possesses, he has enough to possibly decimate the town if he wishes. This was what Hinota felt from him. It made her aggravated beyond her limit, but she knew that she did not have the power to face him alone.

“Kudo… can we beat him?”

Kudo perked his ears after hearing a sudden question.

After all this time, Hinota usually doesn’t show any concerns regarding their opponents.

Even if it was as powerful as a bottom-floor dungeon Boss monster, Hinota would still show off her arrogant side.

Now she asks if they can beat him. It made Kudo swallow his spit.

“Don’t worry, Hinota!” He shouted, warding off the tension. “We reached our Class Up, and we have the best equipment! We can beat him!”

Kudo reminded her of their feats, their successes, and their hard work.

He had to, because if nothing else, they have their pride as the best adventurers in Peranim.

“You’re right… We can beat him if we try!”

Kudo’s words were raising her self-confidence. She smirked, showing her pride.

“Oh? Did I hear that right? You guys got your first Class Up?”

Shinezu spoke in surprise, tilting his head.

“And you also got the best equipment…? Is that for real?”

Kudo grits his teeth, feeling even more frustrated at his mocking tone.

“Well, sorry to break it to you, since it looks like that became your mojo, but… equipment doesn’t mean shit if you don’t got the level.”

Shinezu curled his lips, pointing his left thumb at his chest.

“—And I got plenty of it.”

He said with a prideful tone.

“Gaining levels is far more important than just getting equipment. Equipment can break and leaves you defenseless after a while. Levels, however… stay with you forever.”

His tone seemed as though he was in a trance. The mention of levels made him look disturbing to the PlusFire.

And, as if he was being controlled like a puppet, he slowly moved forward, putting one foot over the other with his sneer.

Hinota’s body tensed up, but she gripped her hilt tightly.

“Kudo! I’ll go ahead. Give me support!”

“Got it!”

Kudo nodded as he lifts his hand into the air.

“——《Plus Pulse》!”

White rings came out of his hand, and have fallen over the two of them. Their bodies then glowed a white color.

Seeing that the buff is working on her, she lowered her knees, and pushed her feet off the ground.

(This guy… he can be scary all he wants, but it won’t affect me!)

Her mind began to work overtime. Time seemed to stop all around her as her body flew towards her opponent.

(So far, he seems to be a [Mage] type adventurer. His skills involve explosions, so he specializes in special fire magic. I hate to say it, but it looks like he’s got the better end of the fire spectrum when it comes to overall damage.)

Hinota simulated her actions. She began to formulate every action that she could possibly make, and every action that Shinezu would make. Each one has coordinated into their own patterns in her brain, and Hinota could see it all.

All the while, time around her was slowing down, her body barely reaching Shinezu.

(All I have to do is barrage him with physical attacks. Most [Mages] can’t handle a full-frontal assault. Not only that, I have Kudo backing me up. There’s no way we can lose!)

Her body trembled, but her will pushed her forward.

“——《Burning Soul》!”

Her spirit blazing, she shouted at the top of her lungs, powering her body with her buffing skill that made her body burn brightly despite the heavy rainfall.

Her body turned into nothing but instinct. Her body reached into Shinezu’s range in a heartbeat. During so, she lowered her katana near her right leg and then swung the blade upwards with a diagonal slash.

Shinezu’s sharp gaze pierce through her technique and shifted his balance, moving his left shoulder backward to make the katana miss him by an inch, his sneer still plastered on his face.

Hinota’s eyes widened, but she expected that from one of her simulations. Within the corner of her eye, she sees a small movement from his left leg, about to kick her in response.

Using her nimble body, she quickly kicks the ground. Everywhere around them were puddles created by the rain. The rainwater beneath her flew up in a powerful thrust, wetting Shinezu’s eyes as she used this chance to jump back.

Despite being blinded by the water, Shinezu didn’t move an inch. Instead, Hinota could see that he expected that to happen…

(A feint!?)

Noticing his trick, Hinota was consumed by rage.

A feint is usually used to trick straightforward opponents with slight movement, making them react to that out of instinct from their experience in battles. They could then use that chance to predict their outcome and counterattack.

She could tell instantly that Shinezu was a master at dealing with opponents with a conscious mind, something that most monsters do not have in the overworld.

But instead of using that chance to counter, he remained still, and Hinota reacted strongly to it.

It was as if Shinezu was playing with her.

(That bastard…!)

She never felt more insulted as a warrior. Her pride of being the fastest and having powerful counterattacks were damaged severely by his behavior.

She wanted to prove the killer wrong.

“——《Enchant: Strength》! ——《Enchant: Dexterity》! ——《Enchant: Intelligence》! ——《Enchant: Vitality》!”

She didn’t hold back her animosity. She unleashed every powerful enchantment she had learned in her journey to further increase her power output.

Those enchantments, plus the Burning Soul buff, caused her body’s aura to glow an infinite array of colors, each one changing every second.

She gave a glance at the opponent in front of her. She saw him sneering at her. Hinota gritted her teeth.

“Don’t underestimate me!”

She growled, using her feet to jump off the ground and creating a small crater from the force of her strength.

Fast.

The only word that could describe her ridiculous speed. She saw the scenery whip past her like flipping through the pages of a book.

She ran quickly around her opponent, not giving him a chance to even see her for a moment.

However, if she made a mistake in her step, she could find herself falling over and crashing into someplace, and the damage would be too severe.
But her mind was processing faster than her feet.

As her feet touched the wet ground, she made sure on not to slip on any puddles around her. The rain was not even a disadvantage to her.

She ran around, the wind resistance becoming stronger on her body. But her toughened body easily cuts through the wind, and as her body came close to Shinezu, she raised her arms overhead and swung her katana, the blade reaching to his back.

But then she sees Shinezu’s sharp gaze looking right at her.

He turned around, sneering at the girl who was moving faster than anything a human being could see.

He easily spotted her, smiling as he raised his leg and thrusts it towards her.

She reacted by moving her sword towards her chest, the blade horizontally aligned as the heavy boot crashed into it. The force behind it made Hinota’s hands become numb with pain.

(No way?!)

The reaction force was enough to blow away her body, making her tumble on the wet ground and managed to land on her feet a few feet away.

Hinota was stunned. As she felt reality kick in through her senses, she also felt the numbing pain of her hands. If she had blocked it the wrong way, it wasn’t strange for her hands and arms to break from the force alone.

She looked ahead and saw Shinezu’s posture return to normal. The same, sneering expression on his face.

Her heart raced. Her natural instincts were ignoring her mind’s demands. Her body trembled, despite knowing that being afraid does nothing for her.

But then rage settle in afterward, gripping the hilt of her katana with more strength, enough to possibly break it. She gritted her teeth, ready to fight again.

“——《Plus Chain》!”

Suddenly, white chains flew out, wrapping Shinezu’s body around to bind his torso, arms, and legs. Shinezu, however, looked unfazed, but was slightly surprised at the chains currently gripping onto him.

“Hinota! Go for it!”

Kudo tensed his fingers and muscles to grip onto the chains, pulling them back to hold Shinezu in place.

Kudo wasn’t just doing nothing as Hinota fought. The way they fight is that while Hinota tests the opponent out, Kudo would accurately figure out the best purpose to support or ensnare their opponent. He thought the latter would be best as he put his sword back into his bag to trap him.

He could tell that Shinezu enjoyed toying with her. Anger swelled in his chest as he gripped the chains tighter than he would to any monster, not caring whether he gets hurt from it.

(Nobody messes around with Hinota!) Kudo gritted his teeth.

“Thanks, Kudo!” Hinota shouted, her heart lightened knowing that her partner had her back.

She lowered her stance, pointing the blade’s tip pointing right at Shinezu’s center. She folded her arms to move the katana’s hilt besides her body and sharpens her slanted gaze, showing a more ferocious look.

Using the last of her buffs’ time, she dashed, thrusting her katana right towards Shinezu’s torso.

“——《Flaming Strike》!”

The blade was enveloped by powerful flames, enough to make the raindrops evaporate the moment they fall onto it.

She was too fast. Kudo could hardly keep up with her speed thanks to the rain. Only a blazing trail was left in her wake.

He knew that Hinota had this in the bag.

And everything would go their way if she pierces him…

— *Ting!*

But it didn’t work out that way.

Kudo and Hinota widened their eyes. The tip of her katana’s broken blade flew upwards, the burning blade spun in the air from the recoil. The tip landed, easily piercing the stone road. Without its source of power, the flames were quickly doused by the rain.

Hinota looked at the torso which she has supposedly pierced, and found out that the broken blade, the flames slowly dying down, hardly made a scratch on his body. The broken blade was just hanging off his skin through the ripped leather armor.

“Ah… is that all?” Shinezu spoke for the first time since they started fighting. “Your blade’s so dull…”

His tone sounded bored. It was as if he was expecting the blade to pierce him, but he was disappointed by the result.

It made the PlusFire feel their blood run cold.

Kudo’s grip weakened and Hinota slowly drew her hands towards herself. Hinota sees the broken blade with a gaping mouth, her eyes trembling.
Seeing that their spirits were dwindling to the pits, Shinezu curled up his crooked smile.

“You’re too weak!”

Shinezu grabs the chains without resistance. Kudo’s senses were brought back into reality.

“——《Chain Explosion》!”

His hands glowed a strange color that changes from red to yellow, and in the next moment, the white chains blew up piece by piece in a nanosecond, causing Kudo to flinch.

However, his reaction was too slow. The explosions made it all the way to the source, burning his hands from the final explosion, and his body flew from the aftermath straight towards the wall of a nearby store.

“Gaah!”

“Kudo!”

Hinota’s mind was brought back from Kudo’s wail, hearing his grunts and gasps as Kudo felt his hands suffering burns and his entire back and head feeling the wave of pain coursing through.

But before she could do anything, she felt a hand on her abdomen.

She couldn’t even sense it coming. She saw Shinezu in front of her, noticing Shinezu’s hand on her abdomen. Her heart practically jumped out of her chest as she saw Shinezu’s grin.

“——《Touch Bomb》!”

He chuckled and shouted, his hand glowing a sickly red again, only this time it was touching Hinota’s abdomen.

Her eyes widened as the bright light shined enough to blind her.

—*Boom!*

Through the explosion and the smoke that followed, Hinota’s body flew out, the armor covering her belly has broken apart.

Her body crashed to a nearby stall, breaking apart the entire structure. Broken wood fell on top of her body, leaving her to feel the pain along with the cold rain hitting her.

Hinota could barely keep her consciousness alive as she forced her body up, tossing aside the scattered wood pieces to the ground. She felt a slight burn on her belly, noticing the wound on her abdomen.

Her belly showed burnt wounds, and the armor that Kudo has worked so hard on was destroyed into pieces.

The thoughts of her katana raced in her mind. How could it be possible that a highly sharp katana, made by Kudo’s high-level blacksmithing skill, could break so easily?

The durability of katanas might be lower than other average weapons, but their sharpness and attacking power makes up for the missing durability.

Even so, it broke too quickly. And her hands felt as if she was trying to cut a stone wall.

Her eyes glanced towards Shinezu who just stood by.

She noticed the skin hiding behind the ripped leather of his armor, and widened her eyes at the sight of something unnatural in it.

It was obsidian. The katana managed to cut up a portion of the armor, but instead of the tanned skin that he shows normally on his face, nothing but pure black was shown.

(Cover armor…? No, it’s something else!)

She could tell with her heightened eyesight that it was literally his skin. The black skin looked like it was covered in scales, similar to reptile monsters.

“Interested in my body? I guess you’re at that age to be interested, huh?”

Shinezu joked, feeling Hinota’s sharp gaze on his uncovered body. Hinota ignored that statement as Shinezu continued.

“You see, this happens when you only take in a SPECIAL kind of experience points.”

“Special… experience points?”

Once Hinota repeated, Kudo got up from the soaked ground. His hands, once they touch the soaked ground sent sharp pain through them, but then a feeling of relief took over.

“What kind of experience points are you talking about?”

Kudo managed to say, but it made Shinezu laugh out loud.

“A very special kind.”

He repeated, making both Kudo and Hinota grit their teeth.

They stood up, both ignoring the pain signals their brains were giving them. The look of willfulness on their faces got Shinezu to chuckle again.

“Haha, you guys are quite tenacious. I’m actually impressed. To think that you can keep going even after seeing such a difference in power. Despite your overbearing weaknesses, you kids got some grit.”

The comments made the two feel unbridled rage within their bellies.

That was nothing but a pure insult to their pride as adventurers.

“Though, I never thought that I could spend so much time having fun like this. It was enjoyable. You two are really at the top of the ladder when it comes to adventurers in Peranim. However low-level it was, you two gave me quite a show.”

He was complimenting them. In his own way, he praised their strength.

Yet, it felt like mockery to the PlusFire’s ears.

“You…!”

Kudo felt a nostalgic feeling of frustration from a long time ago.

Two months after forming a party, he faced a party that was trying to take Hinota away. Two of them were people that he believed, back then, he would not get along with.

John, the monk who was always hostile with Kudo for some reason.

And finally, Flash, the person who couldn’t stand his presence being near Hinota.

Even Kudo, who was socially inept, could tell the hostile feelings from the two. He remembered the time when they would use insults to demean him in front of his partner.

The anger he felt back then was filled with fear from being persecuted, and sadness from being hated.

But now, he only felt frustrated—annoyed.

He wanted to kick his teeth in for saying such insults to their pride.

“Ghh…”

Along with the anger welling inside, pain coursed through his hands. He looked down, and noticed that his gloves were partially destroyed. He widened his eyes as he finally sees the destructive power of his explosion skills.

He saw his hands burnt, a bit of flesh burnt off from his skin, and blood smeared across his sooted hands. It made his body cringe thinking that this was his current state of his hands.

He also remembered that Hinota received a blow to her abdomen. If this is how his hands looked, he can’t imagine what sort of pain Hinota is going through right now.

Kudo put his hands together, feeling a sharp pain coursing through his palms again. But he endured it and gripped his hands on top of each other.

“——《Minus Clear》!”

He shouted, feeling the energy within his body gather into his hands, and the two of them glowed with a bright light.

The bright light shined, surprising Shinezu as he looked back, getting Hinota to notice it as well.

The shining light faded as Kudo checked the current status of his hands.
His eyes widened to see that his hands’ skin has returned to their original color.

His hands were still bloody, but the soot and the burning sensation on his hands have mostly disappeared. His hands looked like as if they were cut up by a knife, but there are no signs of burning anywhere.

“Alright…!” Kudo made a slight cheer in his heart.

“Ooh, a skill that clears status problems… that’s rare.”

Shinezu smiled, chuckling to himself.

“Interesting…”

“Hinota! I’ll get to you now!”

Kudo was about to run over to Hinota, thinking that she might be suffering the most right now.

However, there was only one obstacle standing in his way.

“And you think that I’ll just let you do what you want?”

Shinezu sharpened his glare, his aura becoming more intimidating by the minute.

Kudo stepped back with one foot backward, noticing the huge presence. The strange, sickening feeling from before has not gone away.

He would normally be scared of this, but his best friend was in trouble.

He swallowed his saliva, and put his foot back forward, showing a dauntless will to the beast in front of him.

“…Heh, go ahead.”

Kud perked up his ears, making sure that he was hearing right.

He heard exactly what he said, because Shinezu stepped aside, letting a clear path to Hinota behind him.

“W-What…?” Hinota saw this and was perplexed. Asking herself why he would do this, she gave a glance to Kudo, thinking that it might be a trap.

Kudo felt her glance, knowing exactly what she was thinking about. But then he turned to Shinezu.

Shinezu showed that he wasn’t worried at all. A smile crept along his face, showing a disturbing image to Kudo under the rain. Kudo sensed that he didn’t care whether he cleared away Hinota’s status or not.

Because it wouldn’t matter.

Gritting his teeth, his pride slowly crumbling, but he swallowed that hit and ran towards Hinota, shocking her as Kudo whipped past Shinezu in a hurry.

Hinota became on guard, thinking that it was all a trap set by Shinezu, but it was for nothing as Shinezu did nothing despite Kudo having reached to where Hinota.

“Hinota, show me where you got hurt,” He said solemnly, his gaze right on Hinota.

“R-Right…”

Hinota did as he said and showed her exposed belly.

Kudo placed his hand gently onto Hinota’s abdomen, causing her to wince for a moment, but she endured it. Kudo swallowed his saliva again as he focused his mana.

“——《Minus Clear》!”

He shouted, and once again the light shined brightly from his hands, affecting the area on Hinota’s burnt belly.

The pain coursed through her body, but in the next instant, the pain was gone.

The light died down, and Hinota took a glance. Her slanted eyes widened when she saw that the burns on her body have disappeared.

“T-This is really handy, Kudo…”

Hinota was happy, but the tension around them made them unable to relish the merriment. The two of them turned to face Shinezu, who folded his arms as he patiently waited for his enemies to heal up.

“Are you two done yet? Do I still need to wait?”

He spoke in a condescending tone, making Hinota growl in response.

“Grr… you will not… make fun of us!”

Hinota lifted herself off the ground, tossing aside every broken wood in her way. Even if her katana is broken, she still has others.

She took out another weapon from her magic bag, this time showing the Flamver spear that her grandfather has given her.

It was an upgraded version of [Logi’s Giant Heart Partisan]. Kudo has put dozens of hours into it, upgrading it as strong as possible with the combined minerals he picked up during his journey.

Both him and Hinota were satisfied with its current strength, which impeded even more than their solid weapons. The only reason why they don’t use it as much is to preserve their money without using up precious resources to repair such a beast-like weapon.

“Kudo, I’ll be going in!”

Hinota was ready to ram the spear through his blackened, scaly skin. She didn’t care whether it would break, as long as it damaged him.

“Hinota, it looks like he has a tough defense. I’ll put on a debuff, but I’m afraid that he might do something.”

“So you want me to take his attention while you give it to him, then I’ll go in for the blow?”

“That’s the only plan I can come up with.”

Kudo regretted that he can’t think up of any more plans.

“Go for it, Hinota!”

“Yeah!”

She rushed in after giving out her cry, the partisan within her hands pointed at his direction.

She sliced the air —*Whoosh!*—across his face, hoping to intimidate him.

But he stayed dauntless, despite the powerful wind pressure of her slash which blew away all the raindrops behind him.

Without wasting any movement, she jumped off the moment her partisan swung to the side, flipping over Shinezu’s head and landing behind him.

She spins her partisan, high-pitched sounds of metal slicing the air resounded as she directed the blade right behind Shinezu.

—*Ting!*

Her eyes widened to see the blade being interrupted by Shinezu’s right elbow. He swung his elbow behind his back and hits the flat end of the blade right before it made contact without issue. The blade practically flew out from the force alone.

“Ghh!”

“Hehe, should be about time now…”

Shinezu spoke to himself, glancing back from the corner of his eyes to see Kudo prepping his skill.

“——《Minus Pulse》!”

Kudo’s hands shot out several black rings, opposite to his buffing skill, right at Shinezu. Shinezu took on the skill without even moving.

The Minus Pulse skill only affects beings that Kudo considers his enemies. Hinota, obviously, was not one, so the skill did not affect her even if she gets hit by it while she was behind him.

On the other hand, whoever the black rings land on, they take a full frontal attack. It’s like a wave that cannot be avoided in a single stream, and it can range up to nearly 20 monsters.

Hitting one single opponent should be easy.

Kudo wanted to hit him while Hinota was about to do feints on him, hoping to do the same to him, but Shinezu remained still, and even took on the debuff.

It was as if he wanted to test out the skill for himself.

“…Oh, I feel kinda weak in the arms. Is this a debuff? Never had one since I usually kill before I get it.”

Shinezu looked at his hand, feeling a slight numbness. He looked surprised, but he wasn’t as surprised as Kudo who felt as if his skill did absolutely nothing.

Hinota gritted her teeth, grunting in frustration as she thrust her hand outward.

“——《Fireball》!”

A raging fireball flew out of her hands, directly hitting Shinezu’s back.

This resulted in a large cloud of smoke that covered the entire area. Hinota used the cover of the smoke and jumped to where Kudo was.

“Kudo! Let’s hope that it’s a magical debuff and hit him with our signature move!”

Hinota turned back to Kudo, her head riddled with sweat along with the water of the rain.

“Yeah!” Kudo nodded as he wholeheartedly agreed.

The two gathered their mana, and prepared the skills which unified them at the very beginning.

The skill that started their adventures together.

“——《Plus Bomb》!”

First, Kudo threw the ball of light that landed right in the center of the smoke, revealing Shinezu who stood by, looking at the ball of light that was stuck on his chest.

“Oh? This is pretty…” He spoke in a tone of child-like wonder.

“Then you’ll love the fireworks! ——《Fireball》!”

Hinota shouted, unleashing another Fireball right at Shinezu—to be more specific, right at the bomb itself.

The two collided.

—*BOOOOOOM!!!*

Another explosion, but this time, much stronger as the height of the explosion reached up to several meters into the gray skies. The shockwave alone was enough to break apart every stall from the force alone.

Kudo and Hinota realized that they were in town, and of course, using such a skill would result in them being in trouble. However, since they were facing an enemy that is a potential killer, they had no choice but to resort to such methods as it was their own way of delivering big damage.

Kudo and Hinota hoped that it was enough, having an image of the killer being taken down in their minds.

But unfortunately, their hopes were dashed.

“Ahh… that was pretty nasty. You guys should be more careful to your surroundings.”

The voice cuts clear of the rumblings of the smoke and fire, making the two tremble. He stepped out of the wall of smoke in his way, revealing his bare chest which his armor was completely blown away.

They destroyed his armor, leaving only his pants and boots. It revealed a clear-cut torso that seemed to be built like a statue.

But it frightened the two.

Because nearly half of his torso, from the bottom all the way up to a diagonal size over his left shoulder, was covered with a mysterious black scaly skin. The two stepped back from the visage of this horrible sight.

“Though I would like to continue this pointless dance to the death, I’d like to finish this and see what sort of experience I get from the two of you…”

“E-Experience…?”

In that moment, something clicked in Kudo’s mind.

The way he acted, when he said a ‘special’ kind of experience points, and when he killed off the guard to get here.

He started to piece together the puzzle from his words, but he felt a chill that was colder than ice when he realized it.

“D-Don’t tell me… that kind of experience points you’re talking about… you get it from killing people?”

His words made his body tremble, Hinota turned to him, surprised. Shinezu showed a creeping smile that made a haunting image.

“Yes~ That’s right~”

He said playfully, causing the two to shrink back in fear.

“T-That’s impossible!” Hinote refuted. “It’s impossible to get any kind of experience points from other people!”

Hinota screamed, swinging her hand as if to swat away this ridiculous information. Kudo shared her sentiment, but he felt that there was no point in denying it from the inside.

“If you don’t believe me, then let me break it down for you in a matter than you can accept. You look like you only accept cold, hard facts, after all.”

Shinezu turned his posture, his hip slightly tilted to the right with a buckled knee. With his left hand on his hip, he looked like a bored teacher in a classroom.

“The experience points that I’m talking about is not the normal, boring experience points that you two are filled with.”

He explained in an easy-going manner, but it left the two to sharpen their gaze.

“You see, there are two kinds of experience points. The normal kind is from killing monsters, converting their corrupted mana into pure mana, and the pure mana flows into your body which grants you more power. That’s just called experience points.”

Shinezu’s smile suddenly darkens—deriving a strange joy when he said the next words:

“And the other, fun kind of experience points is when you go after a person’s pure mana that exists naturally inside of him or her, converting that pure mana into a dark and twisted, but extraordinarily stronger than normal mana. That, my dear youngsters, is called Dark Experience Points.”

“D-Dark experience points…?”

Kudo’s body trembled as he spoke those words.

Going after a person’s pure mana, and converting it into corrupted mana… It’s the complete opposite of an adventurer’s goal to level up.

Instead of monsters, he went after people.

“You… You killed people… and made them into experience points?!”

“BINGO!! Exactly right!”

Shinezu suddenly shouted, pointing two index fingers at Kudo. Kudo, however, felt his body cringe, and rage swelled inside of him.

“That’s… that’s wrong! That’s just insane! You can’t do that!”

Hinota refused to learn such information. Going after people instead of monsters is unnatural. It’s undeniably immoral.

“Ah, I keep hearing that a lot. You guys say that it’s immoral, but don’t you do the same to monsters? You keep killing them, get their experience points, and pretend that it’s all nice and normal, don’t you?”

“Monsters are different!”

Kudo practically screamed. He wanted to correct such thinking without hesitation.

“Monsters are creatures that go after people for their mana. They kill them without any thought, without thinking about the consequences! It’s our job as adventurers to take care of them so that we can protect other people! That’s what we do!”

Kudo gritted his teeth. But this time, anger was not his main emotion.

Along with his anger was fear.

“Adventurers… aren’t supposed to kill other people! It’s not right!”

Adventurers are proud people, taking up arms to defend the public cities against monsters. Other than that, they also discover new locations, provide themselves from selling off materials to those who needed it, and discover the very foundations of the planet itself.

To Kudo, adventurers are the pioneers into the unknown.

“…In the end, you’re the same as all the other hypocrites.”

Shinezu’s shoulders sank, his head dropped as if he was downhearted.

“Well, I suppose I can’t expect everyone to accept my passion. My passion to be as strong as possible, as fast as possible…”

“Ghh…” Kudo’s stomach has sickened from hearing that.

“If you guys want to be strong, then the only possible way to get any stronger is to get Dark Experience. Dark Experience points are much stronger, and upgrades your body faster to at least five times more than normal experience points could ever do. I mean, it’s only obvious, isn’t it? And it’s hardly any work at all. All you have to do is kill people. And they’re so easy to kill too, compared to bosses.”

As Shinezu prattled on, Kudo stepped back, moving his arm over Hinota. Hinota clenched her fists, feeling disturbed.

The two of them were seeing the height of Shinezu’s insanity.

“Ahh… why can’t you two be like my student? At least he’s got the right idea…”

Shinezu exaggeratingly exhaled as his chin was raised, facing the rain hitting his tanned face.

“Well, I wasted enough time anyways.”

“W-Wasted…?” Kudo asked, receiving a bad feeling in his gut.

“Well, I was waiting for my skill to activate. I had to wait and make sure that nobody else knew about what was going on in the Sparkling Oasis. I was worried that my work would have been disrupted, but thankfully, nothing has changed~”

Kudo and Hinota’s eyes widened.

“Ah… just a little bit closer now… I’m almost done with the skill…”

Shinezu opened his eyes, his irises staring right at them while his chin was raised. A creeping smile rose from his lips.

“And soon everything will go dark.”

The words alone got Hinota to swallow her fear for a moment.

“Kudo! Go ahead and warn everyone! I’ll stay here and deal with him!”

“B-But,” Kudo gritted his teeth. “I can’t do that!”

“Kudo!”

“I can’t leave you here with him!”

Kudo snapped back, his irises shrank from fear. Hinota gritted her teeth shouted back.

“I’ll handle this bastard! You got a more important job to do! I don’t care how you do it—force them out of the building if you have to. Just go!”

Hinota’s slanted eyes glared at Kudo, showing her fiery spirit that was overcoming her fear.

How could Kudo ever say no to those eyes? He swallowed his saliva as he nodded.

He turned and ran towards the direction of the Sparkling Oasis.

As the sounds feet stepping onto the wet ground were slowly becoming faint, Hinota faced Shinezu who watched the scene happen with a relaxed nature.

Hinota could still feel his vast power rising from his body, making her body react strongly by trembling. Shinezu stayed quiet, making a smirk as Hinota lowered her brows.

She silently whispered: ‘Status Menu’, and saw her status for herself.

Her [HP] was nearly low. She got that way from only his first attack.

Her armor, created by Kudo that was supposed to be at their highest defense, stood no match to his skills. If she takes another hit, she would most likely die.

However, she promised Kudo to give him enough time for him to evacuate the others out of the building.

She had to do whatever she can to help Kudo’s parents, along with the other farmers, to stay alive.

For that, she will stake her future, her adventurer’s pride, into this fight.

She put herself into a stance, and pointed her broken katana towards Shinezu.

“I won’t let you get away with this.”

She said to strengthen herself with her resolve.

“Hahaha, that’s the most cheesiest line a background character would say in a story.”

Shinezu laughed heartily at Hinota’s courage. She would normally get angry at this, but the fear has stricken her body to stay quiet.

“But… there’s no way I can miss the show if that boy’s going there. I’ll get to see a reaction that I’ve been dying to see…”

With those words, he smiled, and soon…

His body vanishes into thin air.

Hinota’s eyes widened, seeing her former opponent gone missing. She desperately searched around, hoping to see a glimpse of him, but he was nowhere in sight.

“D…Damn it! Kudo!!”

Without even doing anything, she has failed. Never knowing greater shame than this, Hinota has dropped everything and ran towards to where Kudo went, using her vast speed to try to reach him.

Kudo kept running, ignoring the pain on his hands as they gripped tightly into fists, each one being swung forward with force as Kudo ran with all his might.

The rainwater splashes at each step, filling his ears along with the heavy rain. The aqueducts were nearly bursting from the amount of rainwater flowing through them.

He was getting close. He could see the building which he saw his parents enter before leaving to grind.

How would he consider getting all those people out? Hinota said to do it, even if he has to force them out.

If the people does not do as he says, should he force them out violently? Drag them out of the building?

When Kudo considers the probability of the building being blown up, that seems like the correct choice.

He has no time to be tactful. He had to get them out.

He sees the building after moving towards a road that cuts a path straight towards the Sparkling Oasis. The building was located on the northern side of the city, a few meters from the edge of the city’s border.

His breath was becoming ragged. His heart felt like it was about to jump out of his chest. His mind was becoming blurry—only his body moved according to his will.

With the rain obstructing his eyesight, it was the worst feeling in the world.

But if he could get to the building, everything will be fine.

Kudo got close to the building. The single large building made out of smooth stone and intricate carvings. It was lavish, as if it was made for nobles.

As he saw the stairs leading to the front entrance, his body felt the strangest sensation.

Time stopped moving. Rather, it was moving slowly, feeling his body was being slowly frozen. His heart was the only thing moving at rapid pace.

Along with his heart, his mind returned to its hastened pace. He knew that he was conscious, yet his body moved so slowly.

It was as if his mind was warning him.

He ignored the warning, and ran up the stairs and extended his hand. He was close to turning the knob that would open the door.

Right before his hand could touch the knob…

—*BOOOOOOOM!!!*

His vision was clouded with a fiery blast of hot air. The front of his body became burnt in the process. The surging force blew Kudo’s body away into the air.

His mind was still moving so fast that everything seemed to happen so slowly. He saw clearly what just happened…

The Sparkling Oasis erupted in a furious blast. The fire burst out from the windows, from the door, and eventually broke the building walls apart as well. The debris from the building flew everywhere, erupting in a force that made them crash to other nearby buildings, destroying everything in its path.

The debris also landed on Kudo. He was pelted with constant small rocks that the pain from earlier seemed minimal compared to this. Kudo’s mind was still moving so fast that everything seemed so slow to him.

He felt the pain gradually become worse with each passing second.

His body crashed on the street and kept skipping on it until gravity settled in. His mind returned to normal, feeling and hearing everything happening at once.

The flames flickering from the distance. Screams from the citizens could be heard everywhere. The sound of rain being drowned in the sounds of chaos and despair.

It felt as if everything that he has ever known was falling apart.


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