Hour Empty Child
They took a stroll down the path to find themselves on one of the fountain that continued to spout water. The raindrops mixing with its water, creating a serene sound that filled the atmosphere around them.
Kudo and Hinota sat by the edge of the fountain, feeling the cold water splashing onto their backside. The mood between them was still, the silence bringing them unable to make small talk.
Kudo looked up to see her, and for a moment, Hinota did not look back until a moment later, meeting with his gaze.
Hinota told him the news that Maon relayed to her.
Every single detail, without omitting anything.
Throughout it all, Kudo’s eyes widened from hearing it.
After a few minutes, the two were left silent again, looking down at their feet huddled together.
“…That’s everything. I have to leave our party, and go back to my home in Erijo. By myself.”
Hinota bit her lip when she said that, lowering her brow before taking a peek at Kudo with just her eyes.
His hands were trembling, and eventually, they clenched into fists. She couldn’t see Kudo’s eyes, but she could tell that he was frustrated.
She spoke again:
“I’m sorry, Kudo… for everything.”
Hinota clasps her hands, conjoining her fingers together as she tried to bring out the words that were drilling into her heart.
“I… I only have an hour before I leave… so, I just wanna say these words.”
She heaved a heavy sigh, finally letting out what her heart wanted to say all this time.
“I’m sorry for letting this happen. Even though I tried so hard, I just couldn’t escape from them…”
Hearing her say that, Kudo turned to her. Hinota continued on.
“I’m sorry for not being strong enough. I boasted all the time, saying that I was invincible. But I… couldn’t protect either you or your parents.”
Kudo saw her body shaking. He could tell that she was feeling rage and sadness at the same time.
“And… I’m sorry for leaving you. I’m… I’m so sorry…”
Hinota hung her head low, finally finishing as the words alone made her shed tears.
Hinota wasn’t the kind of girl to cry easily. Kudo knew this more than anyone else.
Rather, not once did he saw her cry. Even after the horrible month she had spent before they met up.
Kudo saw that Hinota was in pain just as much as he was.
The pain of leaving behind someone who needed her.
Even when he didn’t mean to, he caused her so much pain.
Kudo wanted to kick himself for letting Hinota feel alone as he grieved. His situation was terrible, that is for sure.
But the red-haired girl was in pain just as much.
“…Hinota, don’t worry.”
Hinota tried to stop herself from crying. As she kept stifling her tears, wiping away her eyes with her hands, his voice entered into the conversation.
“Hinota, you should talk to your parents. Tell them everything about how you feel.”
Kudo told her his thoughts on the matter. Hinota looked back down to her lap.
She could tell this to Kudo, the one who have entered into her heart and made her feel all these wonderful but painful emotions.
“…I want to run away. I don’t want to go back and leave you alone.”
Hinota told her honest feelings. Her hands clutched onto her pants tightly as her shoulders shook.
“But I can’t…”
“You shouldn’t. Though, that made me really happy.”
His gentle voice got Hinota to turn back, seeing him flashing a small smile that seemed opposite of his earlier attitude.
“…To be honest, I don’t want you to go, either. But… this is important to you. This is your family.”
Kudo said as he clutched his hands as well, but he put on a determined expression on his face as he tells this directly to Hinota.
“Your mother and father are still your parents. Even if you have different views, I think that you should talk to them one more time, and try to clear the air.”
Kudo’s eyes softened as he spoke again:
“I know I said that I wouldn’t forgive your family… but I think you should spend some time with them, and try to get back the time when all of you were happy together… Because you never know how much time you have until then.”
Those words were tinged with regret and sadness. Hinota sensed them as the azure-haired boy showed a moment of agony, but was soon replaced with a beaming smile.
It was too much for Hinota to take. His radiant smile that seemed to blow away the despair around them caused her tears to overflow.
“I’m sorry… I’m…”
Kudo extended his arms and grabbed hold Hinota towards himself.
Replaying the memory from before, Kudo embraced Hinota tightly. Kudo would usually show a bit of embarrassment doing this, but he knew that Hinota needed one more than anything else.
He could hear her gasps and sharp inhaling beside his ear, her body trembling as to try to stop herself from crying.
Kudo rubbed her head gently, saying ‘it’s okay…’ over and over.
Hinota hugged back with more force, hugging him tightly to her. Kudo smiled as he spoke:
“Hinota, you’re the greatest friend I could ever ask. Thank you so much, for everything…”
He gave the warmth back during the time when he was in pain.
During the extra time they had, Kudo and Hinota activated the sequence on their Growth Crystals.
They have never planned on doing this, but they learned this sequence from the Guild worker in the Adventurers’ Guild where they made their party for the first time.
It was the sequence to disband the party.
This sequence is to cancel the mana that was in their Growth Crystal by touching them together.
It was connected before as to share the experience points together, but when they cancel out the mana, they are no longer connected. This meant that their party was officially disbanded.
They also took in the matter of separating the loot.
Kudo and Hinota covered everything, including their bank in the adventurer’s guild. They made sure that they were able to continue the journey without each other.
An hour passed by, and Kudo and Hinota were outside of the city’s gates. The rain has finally ended, the sun’s rays shining through the gray clouds.
Waiting outside the city’s gates along with them was Maon, who waited at the Flamver carriage’s rider’s seat.
He wanted to extend the time as much as possible for them to say their goodbyes, but he had his orders. He had to return Hinota during the allotted time he had left given to him by Hinota’s parents.
Including the travel time to Erijo, Hinota could not spare any time.
He looked back, and wished that he could reverse the situation as he watched the former PlusFire members face each other beside the carriage.
He felt his heart break after seeing the look on the two’s inner anguish that he could see through their bright faces.
“Kudo, you better take care of yourself, okay? That means eating more than you think you can handle. You need some weight. Also, don’t talk to any strangers without knowing who they are and what they need.”
Kudo nodded, where he would usually retort.
“Hinota, be careful about how you spend money. You need to be frugal with it so that you won’t fall over when you get hungry.
“Don’t you think I can do that without you telling me?”
“Ouch… hehehe, you got it.”
After hearing a quick reply, Hinota chuckled as she nodded as well.
“…Ah, also, have these…”
Hinota looked like she realized something, and got out her [Magic Bag]. She opened it up, and revealed the classic weapons that made Kudo widen his eyes.
“T-Those are the Flamver weapons!”
“Yeah,” Hinota carried the sword, the dagger, the polearm, and the bow with both hands, and handed them to Kudo. “Use them well.”
“I-I can’t have these!”
“Kudo, you know that I prefer my katana more than anything. So just take these. They’ll probably sit in the storage in my bag anyways.”
Hinota refused to hear anymore as she forced the weapons onto him, causing Kudo to sweat a little, but then sighed as he put them into his [Magic Bag].
“You can be really something, you know…”
“Also, have this.”
Kudo shouted in surprise, seeing Hinota taking another item out.
This time, memories of Olinia resurfaced in his mind as he sees the shining pendant that glinted from the sun’s rays.
“The Flamver heirloom. I want you to have it.”
“T-That’s the one thing I’m sure I can’t have! This is too precious to you, Hinota!”
“Not really. Didn’t I explain? This amulet isn’t something I cherish much compared to my hair tie my sister gave me.”
Kudo became silent as Hinota put on a solemn tone.
“I… I want you to be safe. With this amulet, you can sell it for a lot of cash if you ran out in some kind of accident. I know that you can take care of yourself, but this is just to help me calm down a little…”
Kudo felt her heartfelt plea as she stretched out her pendant. Seeing that, he placed his hand on top of Hinota’s.
“…I’m not gonna sell it.”
Kudo said, surprising her. He grabs the pendant, and clutches it tightly in his hand.
“I’m… going to wear it proudly. You may not think of this that much, but to me, this is something that you gave me. I’m not going to sell it, no matter what.”
Hinota curled her lips upwards, a faint blush on her cheeks.. Her heart swelled after hearing those words, seeing Kudo tie the pendant’s chain around his neck.
“…Eh, kinda weird on me, isn’t it?” Kudo said as his pendant swung down to his chest.
“No, it looks nice on you.”
Hinota smiled, making Kudo’s heart stung with guilt.
“Even though you gave me so much, I didn’t give you anything in return…”
“Kudo, you already gave me more money and items than I needed. Remember, you’re the one with a Support Class. You need a lot of help when it comes to fighting monsters.”
Kudo stuttered while rubbing the back of his head with a silly smile. However, his thoughts overwhelmed him and made him ask this question:
“Hey… Hinota, are you coming back here?”
He said, clutching onto a single hope that seemed so out of reach.
Hinota became silent for a moment, then she answered:
“I have no idea. My parents can be really busy sometimes. I might not see them immediately when I return. So… I have no idea when I’ll come back to become an adventurer.”
“I-I see… do you.. want me to stay here until you return?”
Kudo offered, looking up to Hinota for approval. Hinota saw his eyes, wanting to have their separation as little as possible.
She wanted that as well, but she shook her head.
“…I don’t want you to stay here any longer than you have to.”
She smiled warmly at him. She didn’t want him to stay any longer in the city where his parents met their demise. It would be too cruel to ask him to do so.
She also wanted him to move forward.
“I want you to continue with your adventures. Become as strong as you possibly can. Maybe then, we’ll be in the same league and be bound to see each other again.”
Hinota smiled, her beaming face beating the sun’s light that finally managed to shine. To Kudo, it was another irreplaceable image that he will never forget.
Kudo couldn’t handle it anymore as tears welled up in his eyes.
Hinota wanted to sigh, but she didn’t realize that she was also nearing to tears.
“Y-You look so pathetic, Kudo… cheer up.”
She managed to say, and outstretched her arms and embraced Kudo again. Kudo returned her hug with a stronger one.
“Kudo, I don’t want you always read your books. Keep training your body like your life depends on it.”
Kudo felt her heartfelt worry, and acted in kind:
“Hinota, make sure you hold back your snarky comments on other people. Only I can take on your brutal force.”
Hinota nodded strongly, agreeing to his words.
The two didn’t want to let go. They wanted to keep talking and keep feeling their warmth.
But they had to.
The two of them let each other go simultaneously, seeing each other’s faces one more time before saying their words.
“…See you around, Kudo.”
“See ya, Hinota. Give your parents a piece of my mind too, while you’re at it.”
“Hehe, you got it.”
She smiled as she turned, heading towards the carriage.
Stepping onto the small stair and through the door, she closed it behind her, and sat on her seat.
The inside was as glamorous as the outside—completely ornated and decorated to fit the expensive looking carriage.
There was a window at her side, and she didn’t hesitate to move towards it and poke her head outside.
Feeling the extra weight in the carriage, Maon closed his eyes, and strongly whipped the horses in front of him with the reins.
The horses neighed, their cries echoing in the air before they began trotting forward, moving the carriage along.
Before it could move, Hinota’s head poked out of the window, facing Kudo one last time.
“Kudo! You better get stronger by the time I see you again! I’ll also become stronger! I’ll become stronger than anyone in the world!”
She shouted, showing her smile as she waved her her hand at Kudo.
“You got my promise, Hinota! I’ll be stronger than ever before! You’ll be surprised when you’ll see me again!"
Kudo waved back as hard as he can, showing a bright smile in return.
The carriage continued driving on the dirt road path as Hinota returned back inside from the window.
Kudo kept watching the crimson gold carriage going, his energy slowly siphoned out of him.
After reaching the horizon, he could no longer see the carriage anymore.
The PlusFire is no more.