Hour Empty Child
Morning came, but the weather continues to rain down on them.
It was supposed to be a blissful time for Vipory, yet its citizens could not relish in it.
Every person of the city gathered around the single building where the accident occurred.
The accident from which an adventurer has caused, resulting in the deaths of the dozens of Peranim’s farmers.
More than that, it was found out that the owner of the Sparkling Oasis, Herrin Oasis, was among the death toll. His contributions made it possible for the city to thrive, but there were many that speculated that he was the mastermind of this massacre, but has been discredited as his death should not have been expected.
Underneath the gray clouds, the sounds of rain falling filled the air, the Sparkling Oasis was no longer extravagant. It was burnt to smithereens, and it was now nothing but piles of rubble.
The guards did their best to recover the bodies, and hoped to find at least a few survivors, but there were none.
It was a powerful explosion, after all. It was a miracle that the explosion didn’t touch the other buildings near it. The guards were thankful for that.
They pulled each corpse out, and because their visage was too much for the younger children that were near, they covered them up with sheets that were white as snow.
Kudo stood there, looking down at one of the various sheets that covered the streets.
Those were his parents.
He stood erected. His eyes were completely empty, devoid of any light that dazzled like before.
The sheets formed lumps in shape of two human bodies. He could see the hands that poked out of the sheet.
They were completely burnt—there was no trace left of their original skin.
However, Kudo was able to figure out that they were his parents.
Before they were covered, the clothes they wore were burnt and ruined beyond repair, but he could tell with his incredible sight that those were the clothes that he and Hinota bought for his parents.
He wanted this to be just a nightmare. A bad dream that he could just wake up from.
But no matter how much he thought, he stayed in such a reality, and he could plainly see the two people that he loved and cared all his life right in front of them, no longer capable of breathing.
It looked and felt so real that he could touch them.
He extended his hand, wanting to prove that it was fake. He wanted to wake up from this.
But suddenly, the guards that finished their inspection of the building gathered around the bodies, and picked them up, still covered with the sheet.
Kudo made a small gasp. His hand was still stretched out, and put it out further to stop the people who were taking his parents.
He wanted to stop them. He wanted to stop anyone who would take his parents away from him.
As he could see his hand further and further away from himself, his body was tugged from behind.
Two arms covered his torso, and he could feel a warm embrace on his back. It was a warmth that contradicted the cold rain, leaving him unable to move
His hand was kept from a distance while his parents’ bodies were dragged away from him.
He could hear a soft voice whispering to him behind his back. Her head fell on the top of his neck, her soft skin touching his.
“Kudo… I’m so sorry…”
Hinota whispered, her eyes welling tears that fell on top of his neck.
Kudo’s mouth gaped, and tears welled up in his eyes. They fell, mixing with the raindrops that streamed down his face.
He wanted to shout. He wanted to scream out loud. But no words escaped from his lips.
Deep, agonizing pain swirled in his chest, compressing his heart with enough force to crush it. A sense of daze and confusion broke his thought patterns, unable to even think properly.
“Kudo… I’m sorry… I’m sorry…”
Hinota didn’t need to see his face. She knew that he was hurting badly, his spirit breaking into pieces. She kept apologizing, wanting to lift whatever pain he felt in his heart.
The two were left behind as the bodies were carried off.
It was common practice that for those who have passed away must be cremated. It was because that when a person’s body is no longer alive, the mana is left behind. As such, the mana then becomes part of nature, and things go awry when it mixes with nature.
The mana becomes corrupted, and if left alone, the dead body will rise again as an undead.
The more powerful the body, the more powerful the undead will be. As such, for all adventurers who were unlucky to meet an end, it was suggested for the public to cremate the body.
Those who weren’t powerful as adventurers, and were only normal citizens, didn’t cause much of a threat. However, there are many who do not wish for their loved ones to become monsters, only to be taken down by a random adventurer and used as experience points and a source for looting.
That is why there is no hole for the bodies to enter. The bodies must be burnt to ashes before anything else.
The guards took it upon themselves to send the bodies of the deceased to be cremated by a specialist. Since there were many, it will take a while for all the bodies to be properly burnt.
During this, the guards went to investigate and found the two adventurers who have not only saw the one responsible for this, but fought and desperately survived against him.
As Kudo was unable to even speak, Hinota was the one that answered them.
Away from the others, Hinota talked to the guards inside a nearby restaurant.
The restaurant was simple and classy, colorful wooden walls and elegant interior design, along with a few windows to enjoy the outside fresh air.
The restaurant was empty, but it was opened up for the guards to investigate the adventurers, the witnesses of the mass murderer.
Kudo was left on his own, sitting at his own table. He kept gazing downward, getting Hinota to keep glancing at him a few times as she talked to the two guards in the other table.
“I see…” The guard, a young man with a shortcut brown hair, said. “So it took you so much to face him, even when you’re at such a high level…”
“I… apologize for not being able to take him down. We faced him before everyone else, and yet….”
“Don’t be,” The other guard, a slightly older male, jabbed his partner with his elbow, spouting a whimper. “He didn’t mean to be so rude. He’s an idiot. We can’t expect young children like yourselves to face such a maniac and win. It was a miracle that you both survived.”
Hinota knew that the man did not mean anything bad, but her pride of being the strongest adventurer in Peranim was badly wounded by those words.
“Not to mention, I heard about this man that you explained to us.”
“Y-You did?” She raised her head. “Who is he?”
“That guy…” The man tried to remember the details. “He creates genocide everywhere, saying it was for ‘experience’. He must be out of his mind, thinking that he can gain experience points from people. There are rumors that said that he has made over a thousand deaths.”
“A… thousand deaths…”
“As an adventurer, he’s too strong for the guards. I heard that even the Knights go through so much trouble to face him, and he escapes from them every time. The Knights have estimated his level, and it was possible that he has reached over 300…”
Hinota stood and slammed the table with her hands, her eyes widened in shock.
300 levels… it was enough to guess that Shinezu has reached Class Up three times.
So he was three times stronger than both her and Kudo combined.
Hinota gripped her fists and gritted her teeth. She hunched her back as the guards could tell her anxiety and anger rising from her face.
“A-Are you okay, ma’am…?”
The younger guard asked. Hinota heard him and eased up on her tension.
“…I’m fine. Please continue.”
She said as she sat back down, but she couldn’t help but think rapidly about the circumstances.
(Kudo… we were never able to beat him at all. It really was a miracle that the both of us survived… but then… Dear Sister… why are you chasing such a dangerous foe? Even if you’re with that jacket guy, not even Kudo and I…)
She knew that at this moment, her sister was in a league far too high for her and Kudo to reach. To grasp that kind of power, they needed to raise their levels three times more than normal.
It was too high a hurdle.
“W-Well, we heard that such a villain like him is usually all the way on the other continent—in a place known as Lerabelum. It was strange in the first place that the mass murderer, Shinezu Grimwald, would come here in all the places…”
The guard tries to remember the details as he heard from his other companions who came from the port cities of Peranim.
“The Adventurer’s Guild has put him in a black list of the most wanted criminals. In terms of ranking, he’s considered to be an S-rank criminal. Only groups of parties of strong adventurers would be enough to take him down. You shouldn’t feel so down, ma’am.”
The guard tried his best to cheer up the girl who anguished over her loss. She could hear the kind intentions in his voice, resulting in her forcing a small smile.
She spoke the words that came from the bottom of her heart.
The guards continued, having Hinota answered the best she could. She offered a perfect description of Shinezu’s body type and appearance, including the new change he has gone through. Hinota, however, omitted the part where they learned about Dark experience points.
She did this because she didn’t want to cause a panic, and the people spreading around that adventurers can gain it by killing innocent people.
She made a simulation. Thanks to her highly calculating mind, it only took a few seconds in real time to figure it out.
Hinota made the assumption that if the word spread out about dark experience, one of two things will happen. First, adventurers who get greedy about becoming stronger will result in killing people, making a rise of adventurers who forgo the laws and kill every innocent person they could find.
The second was that the public will become afraid of adventurers. This was for Hinota’s and Kudo’s sake, as the councils all across Peranim will most likely want to disband the entire Adventurer’s Guild to appease the citizens.
Though such a thing happening couldn’t be possible, it’s not strange to think that some of the cities who agree with their citizens will most likely ban the adventurers, and if things go wrong, the cities could become a target for monsters who were left unchecked.
This happened many times back in the past, when adventurers were just starting out. Thanks to the rise of adventurers, the monster population were kept down in the low numbers, and continued to be so for the future generations.
But thanks to Shinezu, it could go back to when the cities now have to face two enemies—the monsters, and the unlawful adventurers.
Outside the store, Hinota bid farewell to the guards who thanked her for the useful information. And, in their own way, they offered their condolences to Kudo who stood next to her, still expressing no emotion.
As they left, Hinota grabbed her arm as she took a glance at Kudo.
Empty. Just like the time when he reached his Class Up, his jade-colored eyes showed no light. He was nothing but an empty husk of his former self.
The rain still fell on them, but the watery deluge did not matter to Kudo at all.
Seeing him in this state, she looked at the wound he received on his abdomen.
On the right side of his stomach, there was a large, burnt scar on it. It takes a while for the potions to take full effect, despite having reached full [HP].
That’s because, unlike the potions, the human body needs to take the time to heal. Even if the potions mended the wounds, pain could still be felt if touched improperly. It was proof that the adventurer was still alive.
Kudo and Hinota were now only wearing simple clothing. Hinota could see the wound bandaged up several times by the doctors who came in to treat the PlusFire through his loose sleeveless black shirt.
She noticed that Kudo was getting doused from the small rain that kept showering on them.
“Kudo… let’s get out of the rain, okay? It’s getting cold.”
“T-The funeral won’t take place until tomorrow… we shouldn’t get sick during that.”
Kudo remained still. He only stood, but it was as if there was no soul driving his body.
Hinota looked down on herself.
Hinota herself was wearing clothing that donned her chest and hips with a black shirt and pants. It wasn’t exactly elegant, but Hinota’s image was still pleasant to the eyes.
Hinota wanted to take advantage of this to tease Kudo like she always does, expecting a blushing face in response.
But Kudo wouldn’t even comment on that. He kept quiet. Not minding his own surroundings.
And that is why Hinota felt so guilty.
(If I had… If I had done something…)
She was there, along with him, fighting the enemy. But they were too weak to stop him.
And because of that, the farmers and the personnel from the Sparkling Oasis have perished.
(If I have done something… No. It still wouldn’t matter.)
She kept thinking of simulations of what would happen if she has taken a different direction that what happened last night. But no matter how many simulations she ran in her mind, all of them fell short to Shinezu’s awesome power.
Hinota’s fists clenched. She kept looking down at the wet street that created a small river downwards to the other side, the sounds of water filling the aqueducts filled their ears.
Hinota stood outside the restaurant with Kudo, hoping for a topic that the both of them could share. But the sounds of rain was interrupted by a horse galloping towards them.
Kudo did not care to look. Hinota looked back to see that it was a similar man, this time driving a carriage behind him as he pulls reins on the two horses galloping through the wide street they were in.
Her eyes widened to see the messenger of her family coming towards her. The horses that galloped with a strong gait slowed down under his order, eventually making the carriage to a complete stop.
Hinota glimpsed at the panicked expression he showed on his face.
“Lady Hinota! I’m so relieved to see that you are safe!”
Maon immediately jumped off the carriage and ran to Hinota.
“Ah, Mr. Braven is fine as well! I’m so glad… When I heard the news this morning, I wouldn’t have believed it. Then, I heard your names and I kept thinking the worse, so I ran around the entire city to find you!”
“M-Maon, is that why you look like a mess?”
Upon closer inspection, Hinota could see that Maon wasn’t drenched in rain. He was drenched in sweat, possibly cold sweat due to his fear of the unknown that could have happened to her.
“I-I’m so sorry to show up in such a horrible manner,” Maon notices it himself just now and lowered his head.
“Don’t be. It’s proof that you were concerned with me. Thank you for your worries, but I’m fine, as you can see. Kudo as well.”
“Oh, thank you, Isabel…”
Maon uttered out a small prayer of gratitude to the Upperworld God. Hinota couldn’t help but smile at his sincere worry.
But then, she realized the time. Looking up at a clock tower away from her, she saw that it was 8:00 am…
Maon took notice of her solemn words, and straightened himself.
Hinota turned back to Kudo who was absolutely still.
“Is… Mr. Braven alright?” Maon finally notices the condition Kudo was in, asking Hinota.
“…Kudo, please wait for a little while. I’ll be back soon.”
She said with a gentle voice, caressing his right shoulder as she smiled at him. Hinota then saw Kudo’s head nod slightly.
“I’ll be coming with you, Maon.”
“Thank you, My Lady…”
Hinota followed after Maon, looking back at Kudo who remained there in front of the restaurant without any movement.