Hour Empty Child
Kudo was shocked to hear Raika’s proposal. He gaped at her sudden request.
“R-Raika! What are you saying?!”
The boy, Kuki, shouted at his supposedly deranged partner as he was shocked beyond belief. It looked to Kudo that Kuki’s opinion was not involved in this plan of hers.
However, Raika continued to stay at her designated angle, getting the onlookers to notice them as it caught everyone’s attention.
“A-Ah, let’s go over there!”
Kudo also noticed these piercing stares on him, his phobia of unwanted attention returning as he let his hands around, trying to calm down the situation by moving the party over to the other side.
Kudo led the two, Raika and Kuki, out of the public view and traveled over to an alley in between two stores, figuring that it would be the perfect place to stray from prying eyes. After entering the cool alley, the trash cans and several smudges from gods-knows-what here made Kudo reconsider about choosing this place, but he knew that it was a good place to stay away from the others.
He turned back and faced Raika who looked much more determined than she did before. Kudo figured that since she now got over her nervousness, she’s taking advantage of her rush of energy.
“Okay…” Kudo slowly started the topic. “E-Exactly what’s going on?”
“L-Like I said before, please train us!”
Her request returned back to the atmosphere just a few seconds ago.
“Umm… what do you mean by ‘train us’?”
Kudo can figure that it was something related to adventuring, but he couldn’t make sense of her vague meaning.
“Yeah, Rai!” Kuki stood in front of Raika to ascertain his meaning. “What do you mean by that?! We don’t need some nobody to train us! What’s got into you, anyway?”
Kudo sees the situation and was becoming more perplexed by the second. But then, he noticed the change in the air. The cute bunny that he couldn’t resist petting before has disappeared, changing the lovable air around her into a furious, but still lovable rage—a picture of a rabid bunny was formed into Kudo’s mind.
“What’s got into me?! Do you even remember what happened last night, Kui!?”
Just as ‘Rai’ was Raika’s nickname, ‘Kui’ seems to be Kuki’s nickname. Kuki was taken aback, a surprised whimper came out like a small animal caught in the lights. His eyes seem to have deviated from her heavy gaze.
“Last night,” Raika continued. “We went out hunting like you said, and it was a disaster! We got nearly killed after we depleted our ammo, and we couldn’t even get to kill one Shafox!”
As she raged, she stomped her boot onto the ground, but the amount of force behind those stomps were so subtle, Kudo refrained himself from affectionately saying ‘aww’.
“When we were going home, I went to see that adventurer that I thought was in trouble, turning out to be this guy!”
“Y-Yeah, I remember that…” Kuki remembered what she said the night before, and the events that followed.
“Well, I saw how this guy went after 3 Shafoxes, and he took them out at the same time!”
Kudo and Kuki were surprised to hear this—Kudo from realizing that he was being watched, and Kuki put on a doubtful gaze at the girl.
“Are you sure you were seeing right? There’s no way just one adventurer can take down that many shafoxes at night by himself.”
Kuki, while seriously undermining Kudo’s success, did show a bit of logic. It’s not possible for an adventurer to face monsters alone at night… at least, not favorable.
“It’s true! I have better eyes than you, so I know what I saw!”
Kuki flinched again after hearing Raika’s logic as her vision were twice more stronger than his own.
“So I’m asking him to train us and be better adventurers. I’d rather not get ourselves killed by doing another of your harebrained schemes of getting stronger faster!”
Her piercing words shot like an arrow through Kuki’s heart. He worked hard on making those plans, leaving him looking defeated as he dropped to his knees, his head drooping.
Seeing her logic being unbeatable, Kuki admitted to her arguments. So he asked another question as he raised himself up.
“B-But how are we even going to pay for him?” He said, his tone lowered and sounding depressed. “We can’t even get enough funds to feed ourselves…”
“We don’t have any other choice!”
She snapped back, showing an equal troubled expression on her face. Kudo wondered just how bad their situation is to resort to this kind of tactic. From the sound of their argument, it didn’t sound like they were very high level.
Raika then switched back to Kudo, once again, her brows furrowed as she shouted:
“S-S please, train us to be better adventurers! We’ll do anything! Carry your stuff, give you all the loot—We’ll do anything! S-So… so please…”
Hearing Raika beg as she once again bowed to him, Kudo was left stunned by her determination. He knew that she was desperate, and couldn’t handle another day like their last night training.
He took a glance at Kuki, and it looked like he was no longer against her plan. He brushed the back of his green hair and looked to the side, giving small glances at the two to see what will happen.
Seeing these two, a memory replayed in Kudo’s mind. It reminded himself of the time when he was at the Forest of Dek, and encountered Hinota for the first time.
“Every time I hunt, I go up and face the goblins. But no matter what, I couldn’t get past their defenses. They keep forming around me, causing me trouble to no end. I couldn’t keep up, and my stamina would always be drained. I… when that happens, I just run away…”
“Everyone keeps telling me that I’m strong and powerful, because of my Special Class that my family held. But truthfully, I can’t even hunt goblins. The goblins almost kill me, and I would dread the next time I hunt. I’m still only [Rank D] because I can’t go on quests if it means having to face even stronger monsters.”
Remembering her pain and sorrow of having to face an entire month of hunting goblins without any result, and she was close to quitting and be forced to go back to her manor. When Kudo offered his hand to help her, she made an endearing smile that spoke volumes of her gratitude.
That memory eventually became into a lifelong friendship. Kudo’s heart swelled with emotion as he was reminded again by these two. Inhaling his breath, he exhaled as he answered:
Both Raika and Kuki showed a look of surprise, as if they couldn’t believe what they heard.
“R-Really?! I-Is there anything that you want…?”
Knowing that he wouldn’t accept for free, she asked fearfully on his price. However, it turned out to be wrong as Kudo put his hand up in the air and shook it sideways.
“I don’t need anything. You guys don’t have to pay up either. I just… want to help.”
Hearing his heartfelt words, Raika was left with a look of awe while Kuki continued to gape in surprise. But then he instantly scowled and moved up front to Kudo and pointed at him.
“W-Why should we believe you?! For all we know, you might screw us over!”
“K-Kui! Don’t say that! You’ll upset him!”
The way Raika was saying was as if Kudo was a rare animal that she just caught. Kudo responded back with a warm smile, taking the two by surprise.
“I know that you might not believe me, but I really don’t want anything. I really do want to help you guys.”
The way he said it caused Kuki to raise his brow.
“W-Why? What’d you get out of this?”
The way he said it was as if he was gaining hope now.
Hearing that, Kudo looked up to the bright blue sky between the two buildings, wondering if she was seeing the sky he was seeing as he responded:
“Because you two remind me of my best friend.”
Raika and Kuki were taken in by his solemnity when he said that. Happiness, with a tinge of sadness, overflowed from his words alone. The two could tell that he had garnered a lot of painful experiences.
“If you’re willing to have me, then I’ll gladly help.”
Kudo said as he replaced his distant smile from before into a beaming one. Kuki and Raika looked back to one another, getting the two of them to widen their lips into a smile.
After Kudo, Raika, and Kuki got out of the alleyway, feeling the fresh morning sun rays hitting their faces, Raika suddenly spoke up:
“Umm… I’m really sorry for making a fool of myself just now…”
Kudo saw Raika’s blushing expression, trying to hide under her shoulders like a turtle while her ears flopped down. It looked like her earlier bowing in front of other people resurfaced in her mind.
“Don’t worry about it,” Kudo said with a gentle voice, offering a smile.
Seeing that, Raika felt a little relieved as Kuki watched the interaction between the two with a mild surprise.
“We should get ourselves introduced,” Kudo started off. “My name’s Kudo Braven—I hope to work well with you all.”
Seeing his proper introduction, Raika and Kuki acted in turn.
“I-I’m Raika Eledad. I also hope that we can work well together.”
“…Kuki Windrow. Nice to meet you.”
Raika answered with a slight stutter in her voice, and Kuki made a prolonged answer while looking away, looking as if he was embarrassed by his earlier hostility.
“Nice to meet you,” Kudo answered in kind. “Next, how about we start getting to know each other? Can you guys tell me what class you two are?”
Both Raika and Kuki looked back at each other, knowing that they had to tell it to him. Then, something sparked within Kudo’s memory, reminding himself of the ‘incident’ that Hinota caused under a misunderstanding.
His sudden shout surprised Raika which made her squeal like a small animal.
“I know I said Class, but you shouldn’t confuse it by showing me your personal information!”
To make sure that such an incident doesn’t occur, he makes sure to point that out.
Hearing those words, Raika’s face started to blush a powerful red, steam coming out of her furry ears.
“T-T-T-There’s no way that I’ll mistake my status for that! W-What a-are you talking about?! Everyone knows that you don’t show your personal information unless it’s with a trusted doctor!”
Raika shouted, making a high-pitched noise that made Kuki block his ears from her scream. Though, thanks to that, Kudo gave a sigh of relief.
“Whoo… S-Sorry about that. It’s just that it happened to me before with my friend.”
“What kind of friend is that…? She’s missing a few bolts in her head.”
Kuki was the one to deliver a sharp line, but Kudo completely took it.
“I can’t really deny that…”
He chuckled from his recollections.