Hour Empty Child
Going a few feet away from the restaurant they were just in, Hinota and Maon entered into another street. It was near the marketplace, yet it was despairingly empty. There was not a soul in sight in the next few blocks.
Hinota lay on the wall of a nearby store underneath the large roof that covered them from the rain, her presence lacking any kind of enthusiasm.
Maon could sense her despair without even asking. Her usual intimidating yet awe-inspiring presence has dwindled down to just a simple girl going through harsh times.
It was due to her partner, the boy who has practically lost his life.
“Lady Hinota, that incident… is that boy involved?”
Maon had to ask. Despite his loyalty to Hinota, he was fond of Kudo who have made Hinota so happy in her travels.
Hinota looked away, not able to face Maon in the eyes.
“Kudo… his parents were in that fire. He just saw them being carried away in sheets.”
His breath was stolen from him. His heart ached from hearing such news.
“I’m so sorry… and now…”
“Maon, please. Can you convince my parents in my stead to not do this? Tell them everything that happened! I’m sure… I’m sure that my parents will understand!”
Hinota turned to face Maon, her eyes begging him, as if grasping at a fleeting hope.
Maon’s heart fell into pieces after seeing Hinota act like this. She would usually act with a flair of arrogance and grace.
But what she showed was desperation to reverse a worsening situation.
“…I’m sorry. Your father and mother have made up their minds. Not even this… will convince them to drop the request.”
Hinota’s gasp could be faintly heard. Her hands lowered, her gaze dropping to the floor.
The constant rain drowning the street, and the incident that occurred caused her to feel as if everything was against her.
It was as if the world was going against her for being with Kudo.
“T-That can’t be… I can’t… I can’t leave him like this!”
Hinota shouted, not willing to give up. Even if it meant disagreeing with everybody, Hinota was willing to go through it all to be with Kudo.
He needed her. He needed her more than ever now. She can’t leave him when he’s in so much pain.
Maon could see all of that within her slanted, wet eyes. He closed his eyes for a moment, and inhaled his breath.
His next action caused Hinota to lose her breath.
His hands and knees were on the ground, completely drenched in the passing water. His forehead was on the ground, making Hinota’s eyes fall onto him.
“Lady Hinota, I beg you!” Maon shouted, his words carrying his force of will. “I cannot apologize enough for my uselessness for making you go through such struggles. I wanted you to be with Mr. Braven, the one who have made you write those passionate letters your Lord Grandfather showed me. I am joyful that Hinota is being cared for and treated like a comrade by a good person. But… for his sake, please, come with me!”
“M-Maon! That’s enough! Please, raise your head!”
“If you want to punish someone, let it be me! But please… reconsider your actions!”
Seeing him in such a state, Hinota could see herself in her mind.
She was childish. She didn’t think of what Maon is going through.
He has to be the one who has to separate Hinota from her best friend. More than that, Maon was thinking about Kudo specifically. He didn’t want the Flamver family to hurt him, the one who made Hinota who she is today.
Maon was thinking about both Hinota and Kudo, never caring about himself.
Hinota was selfish, and didn’t want to come back. She wanted to stay with Kudo, using the excuse that he was in pain so that she could stay.
When her thoughts led to that, she never felt more ashamed of herself.
(If my sister sees me like this now, I would shame her…)
She resolved herself to find another way.
“…Can’t I at least bring him with me?”
She spoke softly. Maon raised his head.
Hinota felt a cold shudder in her heart. She clenched her fists tightly.
Feeling the cold water hit his face, Kudo was being bashed by the rain as he lay his back against the restaurant’s wall.
After hearing that Hinota had urgent business, Kudo didn’t want to do anything.
For the first time, he didn’t want to do anything of importance.
Everything that he ever knew about—the joy of adventuring, his parents—were all taken away from him.
All by a single man who skipped through the hard work and would rather take away other people’s lives to become stronger…
He looked up. His eyes were on the gray clouds that seemed to mock the citizens by raining all the time.
He felt his heart constantly submerged in a deep abyss, not getting out to breathe for a single second.
It fell deeper and deeper, never getting out of it.
Each piece of his memories from his past seemed to break apart, and fall into the same abyss.
He slumped down from the wall, his buttocks landing on the ground. He lost all strength in his legs to stand.
He lost everything, and it was all his fault.
If he had trained more… if he had dropped everything and continued to train, he would have been able to do something.
Because he lacked discipline, everything he ever knew about is gone for good.
(Everything… is my fault…)
“Sorry, ma’am… we failed to get him.”
His ears perked up after hearing a familiar voice just in front of him.
His raised his slumped head, directing his gaze on a man that seemed too bright to be in this dreary atmosphere.
The man wore a black jacket, going along with his unruly black hair.
The man, Kagero, was talking to someone, but there was nobody else there. And yet, he continued talking.
“Yeah, we know. He’s a slippery bastard. Using those damn skills of his to get away at the last moment.”
Kagero spoke as if he was talking to someone, holding his hand over his ear. It looked like he was holding an item in front of his ear, and that was used to talk to someone.
Kudo could hear someone else’s voice from that item. Despite his vast knowledge of all the items, he never heard of an item that lets you talk to someone from a distance.
His ears were able to pick up the voice coming from the item in question. It sounded like a female voice, but he couldn’t pick up what she was saying.
“…Hah,” Kagero sighs. “Alright. We’ll stay here. Just please hurry when you can. It’s freaking depressing being here.”
After commenting about the atmosphere, Kudo heard a small beeping sound from Kagero’s item, supposedly calling off the conversation.
Kagero then turned to look at Kudo.
Kudo flinches, seeing the relaxed yet solemn gaze onto him.
The tall adventurer’s stare seemed to bore right through him. It was enough to give some of the most powerful monsters Kudo has come across a run for their money.
Kudo felt that in that instant, Kagero seemed to read him like an open book. Then Kagero’s eyes softened, showing a gentle look.
He lowered his knees, facing Kudo face to face.
“Hey, you okay?”
His voice seemed to contradict his heavy eyes.
Kudo couldn’t answer. He wasn’t able to.
When he tried, nothing seemed to come out. He could only stare Kagero back with his empty eyes.
However, seeing Kagero’s luminescent brown eyes staring at him, he felt inclined to finally answer.
“…Everything… is my fault…”
He admitted. Kudo told Kagero what was really hurting his heart.
“If… I had trained more… if I had gotten more experience points… I would have stopped him…”
Kudo had no idea why he was talking about this to a stranger.
Normally, he would say this to Hinota.
But, somehow, if he did, he would feel as if he failed her as well.
Kudo kept quiet, even when Hinota was talking to him.
Because he didn’t want to show her how much of a failure he was.
“I have no right to be called an adventurer…”
He trained and trained to become the best. All so he can be able to give everyone he knew whatever they wanted in his village.
He also wanted to enjoy his life to the fullest, seeing the wonderful and strange views of the world, and telling them all to his village when he would come back.
But everything he ever worked on was nothing compared to the power he faced yesterday.
As he told this, Kagero listened to every word and lowered his gaze.
Suddenly, he lifted himself, but only for a moment as he turned around, and sat right beside Kudo, surprising him.
He looked up, seeing the gray clouds that blocked the luminescent blue sky.
And then, he put his arm on top of Kudo’s head. The heavy weight made his body jump in reaction, but he looked up to Kagero instead.
“Worrying about that is natural. But…”
Kagero looked down at Kudo.
“If you keep worrying about what would have happened, there’s no room to let in what WILL happen.”
Kudo widened his eyes, seeing Kagero’s gentle eyes resting onto him, showing a smile.
“You’re the one hurting the most from this. The farmers… one of them was someone you knew, right? Someone you cared about?”
“…Yeah. My mom and dad.”
He answered the best he could.
“I see…” Kagero widened his eyes a little, and then shared the same pained look as Kudo’s. “I know the pain of loss better than you think—so the advice I would give you is… keep getting stronger.”
Kagero turned his sight back to the sky.
“I lost my parents when I was a kid, so I was forced to feed myself through… misdeeds, you could say.”
Kagero talked as he remembered the details of his childhood. His eyes seemed distant as he talked to Kudo.
Kagero turned back to Kudo a moment later.
“Despite my losses, I continued forward. Because if I let my worries get to me, I’ll stop moving. That’s worse than losing everything I loved.”
Kagero’s eyes showed a slight change, showing a determined look.
“Letting this bastard destroy you without lifting a finger… I’d say that’s worse than killing your parents.”
Kudo widened his eyes, and in those eyes, a small glint could be seen.
His heart synchronized with his spirit, and through Kagero’s words, something else was born as well.
Something in his heart that burned hotter than anything else.
“Kagero! Come over already!”
Suddenly, a woman’s voice, which felt similar to Kudo again, shouted out Kagero’s name.
“Ah, that’s the missus…”
Kagero slapped his knee before lifting himself up, and looked back at Kudo.
He stretched his hand out to him, offering a smile.
Kudo saw that hand, and felt inclined to take it. Using his strength, Kagero easily lifts Kudo off the ground, and used the same hand to brush Kudo’s hair.
His heart felt somewhat warmed from this. It was similar to how a close family member would act towards another.
“You’ll get stronger if you keep moving forward after this.”
Offering his words from his heart, Kagero walked away from him as he waved goodbye, moving towards the direction where the female voice came from.
Kudo watched Kagero’s back become smaller, sensing the aura that he felt before.
It was strong. Stronger than anything he felt before. He was different than the other Peranim adventurers.
It was close to Shinezu’s aura, but it didn’t make him feel sickened.
Without looking at his status menu, Kudo could sense that he was a powerful adventurer.
Looking at his hand, Kudo was reinvigorated.
The feeling of gaining more power returned to him after reaching level 100, now stronger than ever before.
Without Kudo knowing himself, the light in his eyes shined even brighter than before, clenching his fist in response to his rising spirit.
Near the street where the people were coming back from their business, the sad atmosphere has taken its toll.
Despite having their blessed rain, nobody would dare jump out in excitement anymore.
The air felt heavy, as if it was weighing them down.
In the street filled with melancholic people passing through as the rain fell on them, Kudo walked through the street. His eyes looked forward, seeing the person he was with before.
He stood in front of her. Hinota’s eyes seemed to have lost all light just like him.
Before Kudo could say anything, when she intervened, Kudo saw her eyes staring right at him.
“…I… have something to say.”