Hour Empty Child
Hinota could hear the wailing from the citizens. The rain that filled her ears were being drowned in the sea of shrieks.
Her heart raced as she ran with all her might, hoping that Kudo has done his duty before it occurred.
She could hear the deafening explosion from miles away. Her heart filled with dread as she knew that it happened too fast after she started to run.
She reached towards the road that cuts through towards the Sparkling Oasis, but at the end of that road, Hinota could see, from the distance, crowds of citizens gathered together to watch the furious flames burning intensely.
Seeing the familiar flames that she would use herself onto her enemies, her heart sank and her blood ran cold.
She ran even faster than she thought possible.
Getting near towards the crowd, she pushed every citizen out of her way.
She pushed them aside, not minding manners as she managed to get out of the stuffy crowd, but what she saw in front of her made her mind stop processing.
The Sparkling Oasis was being devoured by flames, burning everything in its blaze. Despite the heavy rainfall, it couldn’t douse the surging fire. The constant heat blowing on her face made her lips quiver, her breath taken from her.
She looked around, desperately searching for the one person who was sent here under her orders.
And there he was.
Away from the other citizens, who were too focused on what was happening to the building, a lone adventurer was sprawled on the ground, his eyes solely on the clouded sky.
She shouted, thanking the gods from the Upperworld that he was in one piece. However, as she ran towards him, she could see that she was wrong.
His body was burnt, several wounds showed from the pelting he received earlier. It was as if he was the victim of the explosion that occurred.
If his eyes weren't trembling and watering, Hinota might have assumed that he was dead.
“Kudo!” She knelt beside him, picking him up from the wet ground.
Hinota shook him slightly, hoping not to hurt him any further, but Kudo wouldn’t respond. His mouth slowly opens, as if he was about to say something.
He whispered, his voice was hoarse.
“Just hold on!”
She knew what she had to do. She used her free hand to open her [Magic Bag] and searched for something. She took out a potion with red-colored liquid inside, a Crimson Potion.
The best heath potion to recover [HP]. One drink is able to recover half of an adventurer’s [HP].
She took off the cap sealing the potion with her thumb and securely placed the opening into Kudo’s mouth.
The contents entered into his mouth, the bitter taste of the potion caused Kudo’s body to jerk in response.
As he drank the content being forced down his throat, his body started to glow a faint blue color. The wound were the ones shining the most. As the wounds started to emit small glints of light, the wounds gradually closed up.
His bloodied body was now free of the wounds, but Hinota knew that Kudo was still in serious pain. As soon as his wounds closed up, Kudo’s eyes closed tightly, clenching his teeth as he grunted.
He said again, this time his voice was clearer.
She wished that she could say to him to calm down. However, even she was panicking despite her gentle tone.
She looked above and saw the citizens crowding around the burning building, the guards trying to calm the situation down by increasing their numbers.
Kudo lifted his head to look up. His vision was blurry, but after a few seconds, his view became clearer.
His eyes widened, and his body suddenly gained the strength to lift himself up from Hinota’s hands.
Kudo’s trembling eyes were fixed onto the building. Hinota saw Kudo’s expression whitening into a blank stare. Her heart stung at the sight of him.
Along with his parents, the dozens of lives in that building were surrounded by fire. The guards were doing everything they can to stop the citizens from heading in further, and to reduce the flames from going out of control by bringing in the collected rainwater to douse the flames.
They weren’t heading inside to save the farmers that were stuck inside.
They were trying to lessen the panic by dealing with the matters at the moment.
Seeing this, Kudo’s mouth gaped, and his small gasps were becoming louder, ready to scream.
But then he felt the sickening feeling becoming stronger.
He grits his teeth, and his eyes slowly sharpen.
He pushed himself off the ground, and ran towards to the other direction of the street, leaving the scene entirely.
She knew what Kudo was planning, and ran after him.
Despite the pain still circling around the front of his body, his face and chest burning slightly, Kudo ran to the other street where the source of that disgusting feeling was coming from.
His mind was dazed, but he could still feel the presence, which has now become clearer than before.
A dark presence, filled with ill-will and malice. He could sense it much better than before now, only to realize that it has grown stronger.
Kudo stopped running. He was on the street far from other people where the lamp posts shed their bright lights, the small light from the fire burning at his backside. He could see the opponent they were just facing clearly on the other side.
He saw the man that made everything crumble apart.
Shinezu’s body contorted and twisted as if it was being controlled like a puppet.
Underneath the bright light, he seemed like a dark shadow that was coming alive.
Kudo could hear Hinota’s footsteps as she ran up to him, only to see the strange sight before them.
She asked, but Kudo remained silent as the two kept watch on this strange behavior.
It was then that the dark presence he felt earlier was becoming stronger by the second.
He saw something that made his eyes widen. He saw a dark stream of energy flowing towards Shinezu’s body. Shinezu contorted his body as if he was reacting to the new energy flowing inside of him.
Kudo knew exactly what was transpiring in front of him. It was the pure mana that is converting into corrupted mana from the farmers.
It was Dark Experience Points flowing into him.
“Hahahahahaha! I feel it! I feel the power! Ooh… it’s soooo gooood!! It feels so gooood!!”
The screams that were filled with euphoria caused the two to shrink back. Shivers ran down their spines, their ears being grated by the horrific laughter and moaning.
They saw the black skin starting to erode the rest of his body. The black, scaly skin crawled up to the rest of the tanned color, covering his face by the left side.
His left hand was also becoming that of a reptilian creature. As the black color covered the hand, it made the nails on his fingers grow sharp, extending it to a few inches like a dagger.
“Aaah, it’s like I’m drowning in their screams! There’s nothing better than receiving a lot of experience points in one go! Hahahahaha!”
As he screamed, Hinota trembled at the sight.
He was becoming a monster. Like the ones they face every day in their adventuring career, they were seeing a human being that was capable of thought and speech becoming that of a monster.
Her feet were planted on the street, her mind completely still and filled with fear.
She glanced at Kudo, ready to shout to get away from this creature, but she saw another unexpected sight.
Kudo’s face darkened, his eyes were slanted compared to his round eyes before. He bared his teeth, grinding them as his fists showed throbbing veins.
Hinota could plainly see the aura around him has drastically changed.
His eyes, most of all, showed the most change. He looked like he was ready to tear him apart.
“You… you bastard…”
He opened his [Magic Bag], took out his bastard sword, and pointed it directly at the twisting body of the monster before them.
Before he could think properly, Kudo’s feet launched him towards Shinezu.
“Kudo! Stop! You can’t go after him!”
Hinota extended her arm, hoping to catch and stop him from committing a mistake.
But her knees buckled, her hands on the ground as she felt her body trembling too much to even stand upright.
She saw her best friend’s back becoming smaller, his blade behind him as he charges towards what she considers to be too strong of a monster.
Hinota screamed behind him as Kudo kept charging towards the creature before them.
Kudo’s mind was completely blank. Only rage filled his thoughts, and the image of driving his sword into Shinezu’s gut drives him to continue onwards without caring for anything else.
He jumped from his charge, his arms over his head and the sword swinging from behind him, using the momentum from the fall to deliver a strike.
He got close enough to Shinezu to swing his sword at him with all his might.
The sword grated against the scaled skin, completely halted.
Shinezu caught Kudo’s sword with just one hand.
Shinezu stopped contorting, and was now completely still as a statue.
Kudo’s eyes widened, feeling his strength vanishing as his sword was gripped tightly to the point of cracks being heard from Shinezu using just his fingers.
Shinezu squeezed his fingers together, crushing the sword’s durability to the end, and the blade broke into dozens of pieces.
The shards of metal that fell along with the rain seemed like it happened in slow motion. Kudo’s eyes widened as his throat was grabbed without mercy, disabling him from breathing.
Why did he do it?
He knew he stood no chance against Shinezu, especially after he has grown stronger from killing those innocent people.
He had no chance. He was too low-leveled. Despite how hard he worked so far, it proved to be nothing to Shinezu.
Yet, why did he charge in recklessly, ignoring Hinota’s words?
He could now understand why the idiots who wasted their lives in Olinia continued their fight to kill the dark zombie, despite the huge difference in strength.
He could understand Roark’s emotions a little bit more.
The shame of being humiliated by someone who got to be so strong so quickly.
But compared to them, it made Kudo ashamed of himself.
Because Shinezu has done so by taking away other people’s lives.
Kudo reflected his actions as he watched the monster before him.
His eyes were bright yellow. Those eyes that seemed to enter into his soul, branding his face onto Kudo’s mind.
He saw Shinezu’s hand move towards him. His hand gently touched his abdomen, but only fear rose from his heart.
“You should have gotten stronger before facing a higher leveled ‘player’.”
He said as he shouted his next words:
“——《Touch Max Explosion》!”
His hands started to glow. He shouted the skill’s name, but the only sound Kudo heard was just the rain falling on them, and the flames flickering in the distance.
Compared to the last painful experience, this moment happened too fast for Kudo’s mind to process.
He felt as if his entire stomach blew apart, a quarter of him was completely burnt.
The blast blew him away from Shinezu, his body twisted in the air like a burning doll. During so, he recalled everything that happened just now.
‘How did this happened…?’
He asked himself before he lost all color from his eyes.
Hinota sprang forth like a spring, catching Kudo mid-air. The force forced her backward, landing on her buttocks with Kudo in her arms.
She shouted repeatedly, tears welling from her eyes as she begged Kudo to awaken, but to no avail.
Kudo’s eyes were completely white. Blood dripped from his mouth which mixed up with the rainwater. But what got her more worried was the large gaping wound on his abdomen.
Blood and burnt skin all around it. She refused to look at it anymore when she thought she saw the inside of his body.
Every bit of strength she could muster was used to wake Kudo up from his unconsciousness. However, he remained comatose.
She was ready to forgo everything and get her bag out, using every potion she had to bring Kudo back.
But the heavy footsteps stepping on the wet ground caused her body to freeze.
She looked up, seeing the hulking figure of a dark creature standing in front of her.
The sneer plastered on his half dark-scaled face got Hinota to quiver.
She wanted him to stop. If he continued, then Kudo will definitely die.
The one thing she doesn’t want is to lose any more people.
She was ready to drop everything, including her pride as an adventurer, as a warrior.
She cried, tears fell from her eyes as her whimper reached to his ears.
“Don’t hurt him anymore… please…”
She could feel her mind and spirit breaking. Only her heart was telling her to say these words.
“Oh? Didn’t you say before that ‘you won’t let me get away with this’?”
His tone mocked her very being. Hinota’s tears ran down her face as her lips quivered, her body shaking in frustration and fear.
“Please… I’m sorry… just don’t hurt him anymore…”
“Hah, this, adding to the boy’s despair, just makes it even richer and sweeter. Along with my job, this is like a bonus.”
Shinezu stepped back, gaining distance away from the PlusFire.
“Ah, don’t worry. I won’t hurt him. I don’t like to hurt people, honestly. I meant to kill him, but he managed to survive.”
Shinezu stretched his hand out.
“I like to take away lives. That’s why I’ll be taking you both out. That way, you won’t separate from your boyfriend here.”
His hand started to glow, installing his vast mana into it.
Hinota knew that words would not change his mind, but that was her last resort.
Seeing her only chance to stop him completely vanished, she huddled her body onto Kudo’s. At the least, she could defend him by using up her body as a shield.
She wanted at least Kudo to survive.
Hinota could hear the flickering sparks near her. She could sense that he was ready to attack.
She closed her eyes. She hoped for a quick death as she braces herself.
In the darkness, she could only hear the rain, and the sparks from his hand.
The sound of something shooting and his grating voice crying out caused her eyes to pop open.
She looked ahead. She saw Shinezu’s left shoulder has been grazed. The one covered with black, scaly skin was cut instantly.
Then, the event responsible for that happened again.
She saw, in that instant, a fast bullet whip past her, and the bullet grazed Shinezu’s left forearm.
Shinezu winced as he jumps back and took a look at the one responsible for it.
“No one lays a hand on my sister.”
The silky voice that said those words were nostalgic to her ears.
She looked back, looking upwards to see the figure standing adjacent to her.
White, soft skin covered by a dark-purple dress that had an open slit on her legs, connected by a ‘V’ shaped belt. There was a diamond-shaped hole in her clothing which revealed a slight cleavage of her large breasts. She held a long staff ornated with blue jewels that seemed to glow a reddish color.
What got Hinota to notice more was the flowing red hair. Red like fire, similar to Hinota’s. The trademark slanted eyes that showed two beautiful orbs of purplish color got Hinota to widen her eyes.
She spoke the endearing name she was used to saying since birth. Her heart raced as she sees the beautiful being whose dress fluttered, her hand holding her staff stretched out towards Shinezu.
Shinezu looked aggravated, his eyes glancing at the mark on her left hand.
“Khh, you found me way too quickly… Though I expected you would be late to the party anyways.”
“You monster… you look even more hideous than before.”
Rage seethed in her cold words, her eyes emitting daggers at the man before her.
Hinota watched the scene between the two of them, gaping at the sight. However, she quickly looked down, seeing the boy who was dying in her arms.
“Hinota, heal up that boy. I’ll handle him.”
Without looking back, her sister, Kasara Flamver, spoke curtly, pointing her glowing staff filled with mana ready to shoot again.
Without hesitation, Hinota opened up her bag.
“Hehe, it’s just one of you. You won’t be able to—”
Before Shinezu could continue speaking, he felt another presence which made him jump back in reaction.
Right after he jumped, a blade slashed upwards, being held by a hand that stretched out from the ground, nearly missing Shinezu by an inch.
Shinezu grunts as he winced from the graze received on his cheek. He looked down, seeing the hand that came out of the random shadow on the ground.
The hand that held the sharp dagger stretched his body upwards, revealing the man who came out of it.
“Just a bit later and I would have cut off your head.”
He spoke nonchalantly, revealing a relaxed look.
It was a tall and slim man who wore a black leather jacket and jeans, wearing a white shirt underneath. Light metal covered his forearms, forelegs, and hands.
His unruly hair was black as ebony, with bright brown eyes that seemed to pierce into your soul.
He juggled his dagger, throwing it upwards to the sky and catching it by the hilt without even looking at it.
“You deserved it too, after what you just did…”
His relaxed look was quickly changed to an intimidating glare, catching the dagger and gripped it tightly to show off his aggravation.
Seeing the two of them, it made Shinezu contort into a disapproving face. Then, he scoffed.
“Puh, well, I’ve already done more than what I need to. I guess I can pull out this time. It was fun to play with you two. I hope that next time, you’ll provide me with more entertainment…”
He spoke to Hinota who watched the scene, her eyes glaring at the man who has wrought so much chaos.
He waved his hand, stepping out of the light of the lamp post with a sickening smile. His body completely disappeared, as if he vanished into thin air.
“Wait right there!”
“Kagero, go after him!”
The man, Kagero, shouted back as he dashed forward quickly. Soon, his body vanishes as well into the darkness.
Kasara grunted, and was about to move forward.
“Wait! Dear Sister!”
Hinota’s voice permeated the rain-filled atmosphere, causing Kasara to stop her movement. She looked behind, facing Hinota’s widened gaze with her own.
“What’s going on…? Why are you here? Why did he do this?!”
She wanted to ask so many questions. Her eyes quivered, begging for an answer.
However, Kasara only pursed her lips and returned her gaze towards the front.
“You should worry more about your friend.”
She spoke curtly, as if reporting to a citizen.
Before Hinota could practically touch her, Kasara suddenly vanished as well. However, in Hinota’s eyes, after being so close to her, the reason she disappeared was that she moved so fast that her body seemed to have disappeared.
That was how Shinezu managed to get away so quickly. After figuring that out, she knew instantly, from that moment on, that the gap between their strength was too wide.
She survived, and Kudo was still within her arms.
But she could feel Kudo’s warmth slowly getting colder. Her heart nearly jumped out of her chest as she continued her work.
She opened another potion, her bag thrown aside and open for accessibility. She opened the cap, and shoved the contents of the potion into his mouth.
But Kudo wasn’t able to drink it. Before, Kudo was barely conscious, but right now, his body wasn’t working at all. The contents spilled from his mouth as Hinota gritted her teeth.
But she knew how to correct that.
Her mind was focusing on only Kudo’s survival. She picked up another potion from her limitless bag, and opened the cap.
She poured the contents into her mouth, closing it tightly to make sure that none spilled out. She used her hand to put Kudo’s head steady and opened his mouth with the other hand.
Breathing in through her nose, Hinota put her lips on top of Kudo’s. Making sure that the lips were connected tightly, she poured the contents into Kudo’s throat.
She made sure that Kudo drank every last drop to the fullest, massaging his throat so that his unconscious body can drink the potion.
Soon enough, the glow once again returned, his wound on his stomach slowly closing up.
Hinota pulled herself away from Kudo, inhaling sharply before picking up another potion from her bag.
She repeated the process, over, and over, and over again. She kept giving glances to the wound to make sure that it closed up properly. She also poured in a Cleanser so that Kudo’s burns would be cleared away as well.
As a few minutes passed, she used up every Crimson Potion in her bag. Breathing heavily, she looked at Kudo’s expression.
His color mostly returned, and the wound on his chest returned to normal. The skin that was burnt off was still apparent, but after seeing Kudo breathe haggardly, her heart felt the strongest sense of relief.
After knowing that Kudo has survived, tears welled up from her eyes.
What came after panic and fear from her heart were now despair and sadness. She bared her teeth as her head covered Kudo’s face from the rain, but her tears were falling on top of him.
“I’m sorry… Kudo… I’m so sorry…”
She kept repeating those words, her heart filled with guilt.
Along with the rain, she could still hear the flames burning from the distance. The screams and wails from other citizens becoming apparent in her ears.
She wanted to apologize to Kudo. She wanted to apologize for her foolish actions and her shameful display against the enemy.
Most of all, she wanted to apologize for her weakness.
Kudo barely opened his eyes. He could feel raindrops that were slightly warmer than before.
In his vision, he saw Hinota’s face over his, her tears endlessly falling from her eyes. He never saw her so sad before, even after all the times they have spent together.
He then remembered the words that he heard before he lost consciousness.
He should have gotten stronger before facing a higher-leveled player…
This day would forever mark on Vipory’s history as the darkest day. Later on, it would be known as the ‘Flames of Tragedy’, where all the farmers of all Peranim burned in a large fire, caused by a single adventurer.