Hour Empty Child
There was nothing but darkness all around him.
Kudo looked everywhere, but there was nothing around him—nothing but the murky black.
Suddenly, his abdomen started aching. It was practically burning away at him.
Light had finally ignited, allowing him to see where he was, but when he saw underneath, light was being shed by the fire burning where his scar was.
He used his hands to put it out, but the fire, and his burns, continued to persist.
Beginning to panic, he looked around to see if there was anything he could do, but then he felt something behind him, and looked up. He saw something that was more frightening than the fire gobbling him up.
A being so tall, it could beat a Giant Orc. Darkness shrouded him, but at the very top, Kudo could see something shining.
Two yellow eyes that seemed to cut through the darkness. The eyes lowered to see Kudo who tried to back away, but the fire was burning away his stamina, crippling him from even moving a muscle now.
Then, underneath those eyes, a smile curled upwards into a horrific sneer, sharpened fangs protruded out of his mouth leaving Kudo to shiver.
Finally, his energy returned from the fear raising his adrenaline and turned around to run, his abdomen continued to burn even hotter than before. He ran and ran, but the darkness served no path for him.
But then he spotted something further down his path. It shone with a brilliance bright enough to blind his eyes.
He slowly recovers his eyesight, but then it became worse.
Standing alone on a circular white terrain, he was completely surrounded by female beings. Sirens, with bright red eyes and sharpened fangs, shrieked and screamed in a symphonious manner, making his ears nearly blow out from the sound.
He couldn’t run anywhere. All he could do was just stay there and be screamed at. But suddenly, a being towered over him, making Kudo’s neck bent upwards.
The being from before couldn’t beat this towering figure. Forget a Giant Orc, the giant, busty figure could beat an entire mountain.
On that figure, a slight smile opened up like bird’s wings, and eyes that popped open into white circles.
Kudo could no longer keep it in. He shrieked loudly, beating all the other sirens, as the towering figure was about to ensnare him with its entire hand.
All the while, the burns on his abdomen continued to burn away into his insides, now turning ice-cold…
Kudo’s eyes popped wide open as he stood up from his bed, riddled with sweat. Heavy breathing ensued as he felt his sweat dripping from his face. He looked at his surroundings.
A stylish blanket that was so soft that one could be embraced in it forever. Behind him was a pillow that was so plushy, one would immediately go to sleep. He sees the bed that he slept on, being as big that three or four people could sleep here all at once.
He looked around, finally noticing the room that he was sleeping in. It was as close to—Rather, it was more glamorous than even the imperial suits at an expensive inn. Bluish walls and white tile floors making up exquisite markings. It was so spacious, Kudo mistook it as a small lobby. Around him, the room was furnished with cabinets, small tables, and even pottery as various plants made the room look more chic.
The sun was shining through the glass windows, shining right on Kudo’s face. Trying to block it with his hand, he notices the same large black screen, about a meter wide, that he saw on that building one time hung on the top corner of the ceiling. At the very center of the ceiling was a large chandelier that seems to be the light in the entire room.
“I-Is this my room…? Ah.”
Kudo remembered everything that has transpired last night. After the whole… fiasco, Kudo was so tired that the maids led him to this room, and then he slept soundly in it.
He couldn’t believe that this room was all his. Feeling uncomfortable, he tried to get off the bed, but then, he felt unnatural.
He didn’t feel any pain.
He wore silk pajamas that were soft to the touch. He ignored the reality of how he managed to get into these pajamas in the first place, even the soft silk underwear, and lifted off his shirt to see the very wound that he thought would be there.
But it wasn’t. There was a hint that a scar was there, but it doesn’t look bad at all. It was as if his scar completely healed up. He touched it, expecting a pang of pain, but he only felt his abdomen. There was no painful reaction at all.
As he was left gaping at this incredible recovery, the door to the room opened, causing him to react quickly by putting down his shirt as he sees a maid coming in.
It was a white-haired elf, a High Elf. Her ethereal appearance with the maid’s outfit stood out even more as she made a slight bow before greeting him.
“Good morning, Master Kudo. It is time for breakfast.”
Kudo was left surprised as the high elf maid left out his room afterward. He remembered what Hinota told him about High elves that they are so proud of their blood lineage that they would never bow to anyone. Much less a High elf female.
However, that High elf female treated Kudo with the utmost respect with an air of loyalty around her. It left Kudo in a daze as he realized that he needed to move. It was early in the morning, so he searched around to see where his belongings were.
He noticed on the round table, made out of white marbe, that his Magic Bag was placed neatly there, along with his clothing from before. The same black shirt and pants folded neatly, and the boots on the floor. When he checked the clothes, he was shocked to see how fresh and clean they were, and the scent of his clothes was an enriching aroma that filled his nose.
Then, he noticed something that should have been his first priority. His pendant, given to him by his best friend, was sitting comfortably with the chain scattered about. He picks up the pendant, and smiled to himself as he let out a small ‘Mornin’’ to the pendant, pretending that it was a message to his friend somewhere far away.
He put the pendant around his neck and put on his clothing, enjoying the sweet scent as he moved towards the door to open the handle. He opened the door and when he peeked at his side, he saw the same high elf maid who seemed to be waiting for him. She nodded her head once, showing a professional smile.
“Please come with me, Master Kudo. We’ll be going to the breakfast room.”
The maid turned around and headed straight to where the breakfast room is, getting Kudo to do so with the slightest bit of hesitation. He knew that in there, he would most likely meet the woman who has caused him so much grief.
He shivered when he recalled the awful hours of acting out his entire life with Hikari as his mother. There were so many awful moments that he needed to act out which will mostly haunt him for the rest of his young life.
While his thoughts were swallowed up by shame and humiliation, he didn’t notice that they were already here. He sees two large doors which the high elf maid opened up, revealing the room inside.
It was as spacious as the dining room, but this time, there was a counter serving up food at the far left side, round tables made out of white marble again which had several maids enjoying their breakfast in high chairs. Each was chatting to each other, filling the room with overlapped voices.
It reminded Kudo of the taverns he would normally visit with Hinota for their breakfast. A sense of nostalgia swept through him as he remembered the times he spent with her.
He was dragged out of his head as he shivered when Hikari called him. He looked where the powerful voice rang out, seeing Hikari waving at him in a large table, enough to fit 10 maids with her enjoying their meals.
What’s worse, she was at the very center where all the clamor of the maids were most condensed. Kudo forced a smile as memories of last night flooded his mind while he walked towards her.
“G-Good morning, Mother…”
Kudo, with a stiff smile and a twitching right brow, now calls Hikari the formal name ‘mother’.
“Now, don’t be so stiff. Just call me ‘Mom’.”
A bit of grief entered into his heart, getting Kudo to show a momentary frown before making another forced smile.
“T-That would just be disrespectful.”
Hearing that, Hikari put on an understanding smile and said ‘I see,’ before motioning Kudo to sit near the table.
Before he could order, a maid came walking and put down a tray of delicious breakfast, smoked salmon and miso soup, along with other meals on the table. It reminded Kudo of his stomach ache from yesterday, but after seeing Hikari eat such a substantial amount of food on her tray without stopping, he resolved himself to eat this much as well.
As he grabbed a utensil from the tray and began to devour every meal before him, Hikari finished her eating already as she asked:
“Are you feeling better now, Kudo?”
It surprised him when she said that. He started to wonder why she would ask that so early in the morning, but then, he remembered the sudden missing pain, and the completely healed scar.
It got him to realize something which made his heart start beating erratically.
“D-Did you do something to my scar?”
Kudo said, trying to hold his body steady from shaking.
“Yep,” Hikari smiled.
Kudo froze up, a chilling wind passed through him as he shook his head to see if he was hearing it right. Before he could scream at her, Hikari explained:
“Yesterday, at the bath, I noticed that you had a nasty scar. I can guess that it was thanks to that bastard that caused the incident.”
Kudo stifled his mouth as she said it. There was a hidden rage within those words as her eyes narrowed to a glowering expression.”
“Of course, there’s no way I can just leave it like that and let it become chronic.”
Kudo felt that it was the case since despite drinking many potions, he could still feel pain.
“So, yesterday, while you slept, I took the chance to administer top-level medicine, or you could say, very powerful and specific potions that heal up your muscle tissue and nerve endings. It was quite a painful injection as well, but you still stayed sleeping without even screaming. That’s my son for you.”
Hikari smiled which got the other maids to giggle when she said that. However, it didn’t sit right with Kudo.
“Shouldn’t you get my permission to do that first?!”
Kudo was outraged. Somebody messed with his body and injected strange drugs. Even if it was from his real mother, it was still wrong.
“You’re not hurt anymore, right? I know that you wouldn’t accept it so easily, so I had to make the choice to do it without your blessing. It didn’t matter to me how wrong it was. All that mattered is that you’re healthy and well.”
Hikari said it in a way that made it seem as if her crime of adjusting drugs didn’t matter at all. It was only the end result that made her satisfied with such a thing. Kudo couldn't do a thing at all. She never meant to be hostile, and was actually worried and did so because he was suffering.
Hikari formed a gentle smile that made Kudo knew instantly that she did not mean to be hostile. She was actually worried for him, and did it because he was in pain.
Kudo felt his abdomen again, and it no longer ached in pain in doing so. He was relieved, to say the least.
However, he felt tense. He didn’t even realize that something was messing with his body. Even if there were no hostile emotions, it felt wrong.
(…This is too much.)
Kudo felt somewhat worried as he quickly ate his breakfast.
As they ate their meals in peace, something struck Kudo as he ate his massive fill.
It was about the incident, where he has been sorely reminded thanks to his injury on his abdomen. He recalled the information told to Hinota from the guards in the morning after the incident occurred, and remembered the details on Shinezu.
“…Mom,” Kudo looked up, his spoon hanging in the air with the bit of fish on it, getting Hikari to look back at him with a pleasant smile.
“Yes, what is it?”
“…About… what happened at Vipory…”
When he said it, Hikari’s facial expression changed to a more somber one.
“…Do you know who Shinezu is?”
The name brought up by him left not only Hikari silent, but the other maids as well who listened in. Each of them stopped their devouring, perking their ears to hear about this. It’s not like they don’t know, but the tension seemed to have increased around the parent and child.
“…Why do you need to know?” Hikari asked, but then she lowered her gaze. “Nevermind—you have plenty of reasons to ask.”
It wasn’t as if Hikari was being mean to him. She asked in a way that made it seem like Kudo shouldn’t know about this person. But after realizing what he went through, she didn’t bothered keeping it from him.
“…Kudo,” Hikari pierced him with her steady gaze. “Shinezu is an abomination. A killer who does not know human sympathy. And now, he’s not even a human—he became a monster.”
“Because of… the dark experience.”
The word was kept within him ever since that time. The time when he saw Shinezu literally transforming into an abysmally deformed creature that not even monsters can compare to. At least there was a certain elegance from them, but Shinezu showed none of that.
Only the desire to kill without reason.
“That’s right,” Hikari answered. “Dark Experience—they are experience points only gathered by slaying innocent souls of equal race.”
This was new information that he didn’t hear about. Equal race?
“D-Does that mean that Shinezu gains dark experience only by killing innocent humans?”
“Exactly,” Hikari nodded. “That’s why as adventurers, we don’t receive dark experience from killing monsters. As such, people like Shinezu doesn’t gain it by killing other races other than his own. He also can’t gain it if the innocent person in question has already killed monsters, making their souls impure.”
Kudo was able to piece together what she meant by that.
“Then, he can’t gain it from adventurers, who kill monsters?”
Kudo looked down onto his meal, half-eaten as some parts were still left and were becoming cold.
“Then, why would he go out his way and try to kill us?” He remembered somewhat about his fight against Shinezu, and how his life nearly hanged in the balance afterward.
“That’s the thing with Dark Players,” Hikari said with a slight bitterness in her tone, raising her small tea cup with piping hot coffee to sip it. “Upon receiving it, they don’t understand the rules, so they believe that if they kill anybody, they can gain it. However…”
Hikari lowered her cup, her gaze becoming hard as steel.
“When they gain dark experience, their bodies slowly transforms into something more than just a monster—they become an abomination.”
Repeating her last insult, she answered mostly what Kudo wanted to cover. However, she continued to speak:
“Kudo, as of now, you’re not even remotely strong enough to handle even one Dark Player. That’s why, when you spot one—Run away. That’s an order.”
She finished with a clear and crisp tone—there was no slight squeal or teasing sound in it. Just like before, she spoke seriously which made Kudo’s hair stand on end.
“…Well,” Like a switch, her solemn aura around her quickly changed to a light-hearted one. “Let’s keep this topic away for a while. Let’s just enjoy our breakfast, kay’?
She shortened the word with a slight smirk on her lips. She went back to eating the meal without any issue, but it left Kudo with a bit of heaviness in his stomach.
Dark Players—that’s the type of adventurer Kudo will remember for a long time.
The feeling of his stomach bulging out resurfaced, a burp escaped from his mouth again. Kudo rubbed his belly again after eating more than he could handle.
Hikari, on the other hand, was able to finish her entire meal within her own pace. He wondered whether Hikari and Hinota shared the same stomach.
Then, he noticed the endless void standing up from her seat to say something.
“Kudo, on our agenda today, we’re going to a special place.”
She said in a delighted tone while forming a grin. Kudo started to sweat as he feared for what kind of special place this might be.
“W-We’re going someplace?”
Kudo felt a chill. Now, whenever she does something, he felt his bones starting to shiver at for what kind of objective she’s planning to achieve.
Now he could understand the plight Kasara and Kagero go through when they’re with her.
However, he technically has no choice. Not only was he taken by the most powerful adventurer, he was given a home, food to eat, and was administered medicine—illegally—that fixed his body. As a man, he couldn’t refuse, especially since she was his biological mother who seems to be looking out for him.
Hikari led Kudo out of the breakfast room and back into the hallways. No matter how many times he sees it, he couldn’t help but become in awe at every single shining object he comes across.
They were heading out through the entrance, which Kudo could remember vaguely where it is by now. They reached to the entrance hall and went out through the doors.
During that time, Kudo looks at the powerful being once again who literally can do whatever she wants.
She says she’s an adventurer, but all he saw so far was that she was a rich and erratic woman who is part of the council of the city.
Now that he thought about it, how could she be part of a council when she’s an adventurer? There were many things that he wanted to ask, but he was nervous to ask it all before.
But now, after that horrifying incident yesterday, he felt that he had the right to ask his own mother.
However, there was a slight hesitation, and his voice cracked when he said it.
“Mmh? Yes, Kudo?”
She answered back with a slight glee from her tone. She seemed to be expecting Kudo to ask her something.
“Umm… can you… tell me about yourself? Like, are you really an adventurer?”
Kudo asked while they got out of their loggia to wait for their driver to come around.
Hikari widened her eyes when he asked that, but then she made an elfin smile.
“Now that I think about it, you haven’t really got to know who I am, did you?”
“N-Not that I remember…”
It was only bits and pieces that he knows about Hikari. Other than the fact that she’s possibly crazy or just weird, he didn’t really knew all that much about his real mother.
Perhaps this was the reason why Kudo didn’t sit well with her. Because he didn’t know her entirely.
“Yes, you’re right. The only way for us to be close is that we need to know about each other. Though, I can already see that you are a kind but timid boy who yearns to be an adventurer.”
(T-This woman completely read me…)
This got Kudo to be slightly on guard. Maybe she knew because Kudo was forced to participate in her ‘birthing’ method, but it could be because she’s immensely perceptive. Kudo could sense that kind of air around her.
“Then, I’ll introduce myself again. My name is Hikari Valkyria.”
She stood in front of him, both hands on her hips to display her vast pride and confidence.
“I’m what’s known around these parts as the best adventurer. Legend-tier, in fact. There’s no other way to say it other than the actual fact. I’m just an adventurer who loves to adventure.”
Kudo understood what she meant. For him, being an adventurer was to go on adventures. He didn’t care what tier he was as long as he could go on to explore. The reason why he needed to increase his quest rank is so that he could go around more places that he couldn’t go as a starting rank.
(Now that I think about it, does my quest rank in Peranim even matter here in Roprase?) He thought as Hikari continued.
“In this capital city we call Triun, you’ll most likely hear crazy rumors about me thrown about everywhere and possibly on every television in this country. Though, I can’t easily dismiss some rumors as they happen to be true.”
(What sort of rumors are those?!)
Kudo felt his spine chilling up. Who IS this woman?
“Well, enough about that,” Hikari merely flicks it away like it was a throw-away trash.
“T-Then, how are you part of the council? How can an adventurer be part in the politics of the city?”
Adventurers, under the Adventurer’s Pact, aren’t known for entering into politics. Though some entered nobility like the Flamver family in Peranim did, not many adventurers venture into the state of affairs in a city. Though some adventurers are called pioneers of the unknown, they weren’t well versed in keeping things in line.
“Ah, you’re well educated. You’re right about that. I’m not actually part of those stuffy, old-minded dogs. However…”
The cool breeze blew past the two, Hikari’s hair swayed in the breeze as she tried to keep her hair down. The image she gave off was similar to that of looking at a goddess.
“As a Guild Master, I’m disinclined to take a part in their meetings.”
Kudo widened his eyes. As the wind finally died down, Hikari’s shimmering azure hair finally falls to her shoulders, Hikari answered:
“That’s right. I’m the guild master of the greatest guild in this city, the Alpha Heart.”
Just the name alone widened his eyes and expanded his chest in a gasp. Hearing the ‘greatest’ guild, he can’t think of anything other than the gathering of the most powerful adventurers.
“You own a guild? For real?”
“That’s right… ah, our ride’s here.”
Hikari notices at the corner of her eye the black Ame that brought them here in the first place. As the ame drove by, parking right in front of the two, Hikari motioned Kudo to head inside.
Inside the ame, seeing the perfectly decorated interior design once again, Kudo took his chance to sit on the comfy seat this time. Of course, Hikari sat right beside him. After receiving the nod from Hikari, the small Chui acted in kind and began to drive the ame.
Kudo could see exactly what she was doing, as well as the driver’s seat at the front of the Ame. There were several buttons, with each one seems to be showing nothing but alien language to Kudo. She looked like she grabbed the stick right beside her, and pulled it slightly, causing a grating sound. The engine of the ame started to roar as she pressed something with her feet, allowing the ame to move forward.
(So that’s how you drive this thing…)
Kudo couldn’t help but want to try it out someday, as this ride was dozens of times better than taking a carriage ride in Peranim.
The ame made its way out of the mansion, with Kudo and Hikari once again entering into their conversation.
“Now, we were talking about the guild, right? Do you know what a guild is?”
She looked back, the car slightly bumping up and down as the Ame passed through the entrance from the gates.
“O-Of course, I do. But, last I remember, adventurers don’t usually own guilds.”
“Hehe, well, I don’t know exactly how Peranim works, but I understand that in there, there are no personal guilds.”
“You must know about the Merchants’ Guild and the Crafting guilds in Peranim, right?”
“Y-Yeah… I went to the Blacksmiths’ Guild to get my 【Blacksmithing】 skill.”
“Ah, so you’re a crafter. That’s a good profession.”
“F-Forget about that,” Kudo blushed as he pushed with his questions. “What are personal guilds?”
“In Lerabelum, adventurers are allowed to create their own guilds, crafted by several adventurers who share the same goal. They are closely kept on watch by the original Adventurer’s Guild and given several features, such as receiving quests from the client’s choosing on which to help do his favor.”
“S-Seriously?” Kudo felt impressed by such an incredible feature.
“That’s right. Though, since there are a number of guilds, there are certain rankings for them to be placed. According to the rankings, the guild must pay an annual fee to the Adventurers’ Guild, or they risk being disbanded.”
“And of course, being disbanded means you have to pay the disband fee, which happens to be a lot.”
“T-There’s a fee for disbanding the guild, too?”
Kudo almost sweated, despite that the window was open for him to feel the cool breeze of the wind.
(This place is literally bleeding adventurers dry…)
Kudo remembered the awful amount he had to pay just to be in the country he didn’t want to go.
Hikari then explained more about the guild’s ranking system. Apparently, there are several rankings they fall under, which is from the bottom, [Rank-E], and then at the very top, which is the highest and nearly impossible to achieve ranking, [Rank-SSS].
Of course, the clients who give the quests to these personal guilds often pick the most higher ranking guild, as they are graded by the number of adventurers they have, the amount of quests that they have officially succeeded, which are then reported to the Adventurers’ Guild, and finally, the rankings of each adventurer in the guild.
“R-Rankings of each adventurer, too? Does that mean that each rank counted?”
“Oh, now that you reminded me, Kudo, you’re Rank B, right?”
She gave a curious gaze with a slight hint of glinting in her eyes. She must have been interested in this for a while now.
“We… me and Hinota were Rank-B. We were close to reaching Rank-A.”
He gave a slight pause after remembering about Hinota again as he gave his answer.
“Is that so! My, that’s impressive!”
Hikari suddenly shouted, and started to praise Kudo which got him to fall in his seat.
“That must be the reason why you were able to gather so much money. Tell me, Kudo, how much you have?”
Kudo weighed his options of whether he should tell her how much he had on him. But after seeing that glinting expression of hers again, Kudo feared for what she might do if he doesn’t answer her.
“I-I have about 11 million Jib. I split up half the money with Hinota before we left.”
Originally, it was about 22 million. When they disbanded their party, Kudo and Hinota insisted to each other to take more than their share, but each was unwilling to back down, so each of them compromised to take half.
“My, you’re quite rich yourself, aren’t you~?”
Hikari said with a slightly high tone, as if it was something she can be proud of. Kudo felt his cheeks reddened when she casually teases his hard-earnings.
“However, since you’re in Lerabelum now, your rank from Peranim is non-existent here. As you paid your clearance fees, you are now an adventurer of a starting rank, in the E-Rank according to the Adventurer’s Pact.”
He made a dejected sigh. He knew that it wouldn’t count in Roprase, but he had a slight hope that it somehow affected it.
“However, I firmly believe that one’s skill can surpass one’s rank.”
Hikari put her hand on Kudo’s shoulder as he raised his head to meet her eyes. It was the same, gentle eyes that seem to say ‘It’s okay’.
“Mmh… then, what rank you have? And the guild, Alpha Heart?”
Hearing that question, Hikari made a smirk.
“Why, my rank and the guild’s rank are the same—they’re both Rank SSS.”
Kudo’s jaw nearly dropped to the floor of the ame when she answered it so proudly. A cold wind blew on him which left him feeling a cold chill down his spine.
“Well, when your guild often goes on raids, it’s only to be expected.”
Raids are special requests from the Adventurer’s Guild themselves that asks several parties of adventurers, each one in their parties having the highest of levels, to participate in a raid of a certain dungeon or any specific type of location that was deemed too dangerous for any adventurer to go alone. The reason for that is because of the dangerous traps and monsters that lurk in those places, and then finally, at the very end of the raid, they have to defeat a high class Boss monster that no party can ever hope to defeat on their own.
Which is why, for those Raid quests, several parties come together to work with each other to take down the Raid boss and collect the great rewards that come from defeating the powerful monster. However, there are always problems when amassing that many people together. It takes a truly experienced veteran, both prominent in being an adventurer and being a leader, to take the entire leadership of the conjoined parties known as an exhibition.
Nevertheless, it was nearly impossible to take all the selfish adventurers to work together and not try anything funny like taking the drop that was supposed to belong to another party. That is why most Raid quests are not completed as of yet.
A successful raid requires vast resources, high-level equipment, powerful and maxed skills, and a lot of time, so that the adventurers can come out of it alive.
“T-That’s incredible… going on raids…”
“Did my guild impress you, Kudo?” She made a silly smile, expecting that her words has done so.
“Then, that’s great~”
Kudo tilts his head when she said that with a pleased tone and expression, her eyes sparkling as if commending herself for a job well done.
As they drove around, Kudo notices the many buildings that were now being showcased under the brilliant sun from the blue-colored sky. He could see clearly now the colors of the tall buildings, and many small businesses that were around.
During so, Hikari explained to Kudo the map around Triun.
In the city of Triun, Hikari’s mansion was located slightly off the city’s outskirts, though it was still well within its jurisdiction. That mansion is completely off limits to civilians, and Hikari takes great pains to ensure that nobody gets close to her property.
Kudo had no idea why she was so private about her estate, but he didn’t ask as he could understand a bit about being safe.
Passing over the several towering structures that seemed to beat down all the rustic, old-fashioned buildings that Kudo has come across in his travels at Peranim, Kudo saw more of the city’s vibrant and colorful atmosphere.
She later explained more about the size of the city, its businesses that follow a different regime of marketing from the usual shouting from Peranim’s bazaars, and the social structure of the citizens. The Ame soon came to where the buildings were sparse, becoming less populated as they finally reached their destination.
Similar to the mansion, it took Kudo’s breath away at the pure size of it. Though it wasn’t as grand, it resembled most like a castle unlike the towering buildings he has passed before. Floor, upon floor upon floor, the entire castle and the grounds near it took up most everywhere around them. White-ashen colored walls adorned with colorful banners and flag posts. Crimson tiled roofs on each tower, and finally, the finishing touch was the giant sign on the front that had no name, but only a marking; a heart with wings spreading out.
There was a large terrace, just like the mansion, at the front of the castle-like building, small gates decorated the front which had the same Peranim-designed gates—spiked tip— that walled the territory.
The Ame finally came to a stop, the maids, Chui and Shokan, getting out before the masters, and opened the doors for them to come out. Hikari stood up and marveled at the building with a prideful smile. Kudo also got out, slightly hesitant as he sees the small castle up close.
“What is this place?” Kudo let out in his awed breath.
“Kudo, we’re finally here. This is the Alpha Heart guild.”
Hikari turned back with a spin, spreading her arms out like the wings on the mark. Her eyes seem to sparkle just by introducing it.
Kudo widened his gaze as he once again takes a look at the building, then onto Hikari herself.
“T-This is the Alpha Heart’s headquarters?”
“That’s right,” Hikari snootily chuckles. “Impressed? I put it in a way that it’ll leave everyone breathless.”
“I-It sure works…”
Kudo had to agree on so many levels. He takes a look at just the gate and he’s already astounded, but at the building itself, he couldn’t believe it.
Hikari motioned with her hands to make Kudo come forward, making his body shake from his nerves as he head forward with stiff legs.
They entered through the arch-like entrance of the gates, the maids opening it up for them as they pass inside. They walked on the stone-paved winding road that leads towards the entrance of the guild itself.
Kudo felt his heart beating too fast to the point of it being heard by the others. A nervous sweat trickled down his cheeks as he looked up again.
“W-What are we doing here in the first place, Mother?”
“Hehe, you’ll know once we head inside.”
Hikari stood in front of the two large doors with more engraved markings at the front. Unlike the other buildings, the castle-like structure itself was very simplistic.
Like an empress returning to her castle, Hikari opened both doors with a proud push, a grin marking her regal face. Kudo could only stare in disbelief at the inside of the guild hall.
A large lobby entered into his view, with two floors that connect with several stairs. The upper floor, made out of bright brown wood, had two counters on each side of the room—one with several drinks showcased in the shelves, a small bar, and a counter where a beautiful maid was behind it. There was a large board posted with scarce mission requests, and several tables where one could hold a meeting.
The bottom floor is where everyone was at. Large round tables that were made out of furbished wood filled the pristine white marble floor, each displaying markings of the same guild crest. Sitting on those tables were the adventurers that Kudo has heard so much about from their conversation.
But they didn’t appear as intimidating as Kudo thought. Rather, each one was nearly laughing their heads off, mugs flying about in their hands, while watching something on the screens that hung on the light yellow walls with interior wooden framework that were designed to make it stand out. Each of the screens was showing different scenes, showing that they were the same screen he had in his room called a television.
Kudo was overwhelmed with a sense of irony and surprise as he watched the merriness of the adventurers who were known as the greatest legends able to take down raid bosses every day.
The strongest adventurers in all of Roprase, and each of them were laughing and having fun like they were ordinary adults. Though, the way they made fun of themselves and roughing it up between each other seemed quite ferocious in Kudo’s innocent eyes.
Hikari stood in front of Kudo with a big grin and spread her arms wide.
“Welcome to Alpha Heart!”
Then, she pointed at herself with her thumb.
“I’m the Guild Master of this place, so you’ll fit in just fine~”
Kudo put on a wry smile as he sweated. (What did she mean by ‘fit in’?)
Feeling confused already, Hikari prompted Kudo to step forward, making him do so with legs freezing up and a racing heart.
Following Hikari from behind, she made a sudden stop, surprising Kudo, and cupped the sides of her mouth with her hand.
“Here I am, you bastards!”
Hikari’s overpowering shout broke through the noises overlapping everywhere in the lobby, stopping everything with her voice alone. While the televisions continued to play, the merriment has all but ceased.
Each adventurer, both young, old, and each of different races, looked back at Hikari with a powerful and menacing glare, Kudo’s bones shivering with terror.
—“ “ “ “ “Master!!!” ” ” ” ”
Joyous cries resounded, shaking the entire lobby with their expanding excitement. Each stood up, bringing their mugs to the sky and shouted with cheers and song in total elation.
“Master, Mighty Jien is delighted to see you come back!”
Suddenly, one of the adventurers stood up from his chair and walked forward.
He was a large dwarf. Though the word large only reflected to his muscular stoutness as his height was slightly lower than Hikari’s. His face buried behind the brown hair that extended all the way to his chest, he wore his underclothes for his armor—white shirt with black overalls.
“Mighty Jien have come here wanting to know this sort of news that you so eagerly told us through the phone. What made you act in such a way?”
From how he refers to himself, Kudo realized that his name was Jien, or Mighty Jien as a full name. Saying that, Kudo looked up in surprise as he didn’t know that she had news to tell.
“Yeah! What’s this great news that’ll shake all of us! We’re dyin’ to know!”
Another adventurer shouted with a toothy grin, revealing a male elf carrying a mug high in the air.
Hikari responded with a ‘Yeah!’ as she then moved forward to address to her members of the guild.
“Like I said on the phone, I got great news for all of you!”
The words left her lips, passing around the guild which made everyone tense, being held in suspense.
As Kudo waited for Hikari to answer, she surprisingly turned to him, and motioned him to come forward. He didn’t know the reason why, but he felt his heart beating out of his chest as he walked forward while all eyes were on them.
They took a look at the boy coming forward, and it was as if they saw a ghost coming alive. Their eyes widened to the brim, mouths gaping at the sight. Some looked at each other in shock, while others gulped down air as they sweated.
Before they could start their whispering, Hikari once again spoke to the suspenseful crowd.
“Guys! I have finally found my son! His name is Kudo, and he’ll be joining the guild!”
The moment those powerful sounding words resounded the hall, Kudo's eyes whitened up, putting on a stiff smile.