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.Bookmark here

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.Bookmark here

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

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

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

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

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

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

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.Bookmark here

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

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

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.Bookmark here

“Don’t tell me… you… you killed him?”Bookmark here

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

“T-That can’t be…”Bookmark here

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

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.Bookmark here

Her body trembled.Bookmark here

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.Bookmark here

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

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

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

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.Bookmark here

“I heard you.”Bookmark here

The two turned to Shinezu.Bookmark here

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

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

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

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

“W-What do you mean?”Bookmark here

“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…”Bookmark here

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.Bookmark here

His next movement caused them to flinch.Bookmark here

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.Bookmark here

“Hinota!”Bookmark here

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.Bookmark here

“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.”Bookmark here

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

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.Bookmark here

“Kudo… can we beat him?”Bookmark here

Kudo perked his ears after hearing a sudden question.Bookmark here

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

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

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

“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!”Bookmark here

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

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

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

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

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

Shinezu spoke in surprise, tilting his head.Bookmark here

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

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

“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.”Bookmark here

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

“—And I got plenty of it.”Bookmark here

He said with a prideful tone.Bookmark here

“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.”Bookmark here

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

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

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

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

“Got it!”Bookmark here

Kudo nodded as he lifts his hand into the air.Bookmark here

“——《Plus Pulse》!”Bookmark here

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

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

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

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

(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.)Bookmark here

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.Bookmark here

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

(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!)Bookmark here

Her body trembled, but her will pushed her forward.Bookmark here

“——《Burning Soul》!”Bookmark here

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.Bookmark here

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.Bookmark here

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.Bookmark here

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.Bookmark here

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.Bookmark here

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

(A feint!?)Bookmark here

Noticing his trick, Hinota was consumed by rage.Bookmark here

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.Bookmark here

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.Bookmark here

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

It was as if Shinezu was playing with her.Bookmark here

(That bastard…!)Bookmark here

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

She wanted to prove the killer wrong.Bookmark here

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

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

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

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

“Don’t underestimate me!”Bookmark here

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

Fast. Bookmark here

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

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

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.Bookmark here

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.Bookmark here

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.Bookmark here

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

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

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

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.Bookmark here

(No way?!)Bookmark here

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.Bookmark here

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.Bookmark here

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

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

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.Bookmark here

“——《Plus Chain》!”Bookmark here

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.Bookmark here

“Hinota! Go for it!”Bookmark here

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

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.Bookmark here

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.Bookmark here

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

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

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.Bookmark here

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

“——《Flaming Strike》!”Bookmark here

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

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.Bookmark here

He knew that Hinota had this in the bag.Bookmark here

And everything would go their way if she pierces him…Bookmark here

— *Ting!*Bookmark here

But it didn’t work out that way.Bookmark here

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.Bookmark here

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.Bookmark here

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

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

It made the PlusFire feel their blood run cold.Bookmark here

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.Bookmark here

“You’re too weak!”Bookmark here

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

“——《Chain Explosion》!”Bookmark here

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.Bookmark here

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.Bookmark here

“Gaah!”Bookmark here

“Kudo!”Bookmark here

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.Bookmark here

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

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.Bookmark here

“——《Touch Bomb》!”Bookmark here

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

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

—*Boom!*Bookmark here

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

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.Bookmark here

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.Bookmark here

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

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?Bookmark here

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

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

Her eyes glanced towards Shinezu who just stood by.Bookmark here

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

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.Bookmark here

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

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.Bookmark here

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

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

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

“Special… experience points?”Bookmark here

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.Bookmark here

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

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

“A very special kind.”Bookmark here

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

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.Bookmark here

“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.”Bookmark here

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

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

“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.”Bookmark here

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

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

“You…!”Bookmark here

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

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.Bookmark here

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

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

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.Bookmark here

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

But now, he only felt frustrated—annoyed.Bookmark here

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

“Ghh…”Bookmark here

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.Bookmark here

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.Bookmark here

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.Bookmark here

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.Bookmark here

“——《Minus Clear》!”Bookmark here

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

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

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.Bookmark here

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.Bookmark here

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

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

Shinezu smiled, chuckling to himself.Bookmark here

“Interesting…”Bookmark here

“Hinota! I’ll get to you now!”Bookmark here

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

“…Heh, go ahead.”Bookmark here

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

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

“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.Bookmark here

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

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.Bookmark here

Because it wouldn’t matter.Bookmark here

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.Bookmark here

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.Bookmark here

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

“R-Right…”Bookmark here

Hinota did as he said and showed her exposed belly.Bookmark here

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.Bookmark here

“——《Minus Clear》!”Bookmark here

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

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

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

“T-This is really handy, Kudo…”Bookmark here

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.Bookmark here

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

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

“Grr… you will not… make fun of us!”Bookmark here

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

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

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.Bookmark here

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.Bookmark here

“Kudo, I’ll be going in!”Bookmark here

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.Bookmark here

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

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

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

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

“Go for it, Hinota!”Bookmark here

“Yeah!”Bookmark here

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

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

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

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

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

—*Ting!*Bookmark here

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.Bookmark here

“Ghh!”Bookmark here

“Hehe, should be about time now…”Bookmark here

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

“——《Minus Pulse》!”Bookmark here

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

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.Bookmark here

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.Bookmark here

Hitting one single opponent should be easy.Bookmark here

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.Bookmark here

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

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

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.Bookmark here

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

“——《Fireball》!”Bookmark here

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

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.Bookmark here

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

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

“Yeah!” Kudo nodded as he wholeheartedly agreed.Bookmark here

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

The skill that started their adventures together.Bookmark here

“——《Plus Bomb》!”Bookmark here

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.Bookmark here

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

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

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

The two collided.Bookmark here

—*BOOOOOOM!!!*Bookmark here

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.Bookmark here

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.Bookmark here

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

But unfortunately, their hopes were dashed.Bookmark here

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

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.Bookmark here

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

But it frightened the two.Bookmark here

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.Bookmark here

“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…”Bookmark here

“E-Experience…?”Bookmark here

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

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

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

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

“Yes~ That’s right~”Bookmark here

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

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

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.Bookmark here

“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.”Bookmark here

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.Bookmark here

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

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

“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.”Bookmark here

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

“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.”Bookmark here

“D-Dark experience points…?”Bookmark here

Kudo’s body trembled as he spoke those words.Bookmark here

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.Bookmark here

Instead of monsters, he went after people.Bookmark here

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

“BINGO!! Exactly right!”Bookmark here

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

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

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

“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?”Bookmark here

“Monsters are different!”Bookmark here

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

“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!”Bookmark here

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

Along with his anger was fear.Bookmark here

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

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.Bookmark here

To Kudo, adventurers are the pioneers into the unknown.Bookmark here

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

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

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

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

“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.”Bookmark here

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

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

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

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

“Well, I wasted enough time anyways.”Bookmark here

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

“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~”Bookmark here

Kudo and Hinota’s eyes widened.Bookmark here

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

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

“And soon everything will go dark.”Bookmark here

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

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

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

“Kudo!”Bookmark here

“I can’t leave you here with him!”Bookmark here

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

“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!”Bookmark here

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

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

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

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.Bookmark here

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.Bookmark here

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

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

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.Bookmark here

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

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

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

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

“I won’t let you get away with this.”Bookmark here

She said to strengthen herself with her resolve.Bookmark here

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

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

“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…”Bookmark here

With those words, he smiled, and soon…Bookmark here

His body vanishes into thin air.Bookmark here

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.Bookmark here

“D…Damn it! Kudo!!”Bookmark here

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.Bookmark here

Bookmark here

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.Bookmark here

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.Bookmark here

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

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

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

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

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

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.Bookmark here

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.Bookmark here

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

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

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.Bookmark here

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

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.Bookmark here

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

It was as if his mind was warning him.Bookmark here

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.Bookmark here

Right before his hand could touch the knob…Bookmark here

—*BOOOOOOOM!!!*Bookmark here

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.Bookmark here

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

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.Bookmark here

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.Bookmark here

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

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.Bookmark here

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.Bookmark here

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


Bookmarked
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