Hour Empty Child
Kudo took Raika and Kuki, his new trainees, to a restaurant a few ways from their original position. It was an open air restaurant—round tables with red canopies resembling roses suited the color of the emerald-roof restaurant, similarly to a garden within the district.
Sitting in one of the tables away from the other patrons—for Raika and Kudo’s sake—Kudo sat on the far left while the two trainees were on the opposite side.
Kudo was analyzing their status data in front of him, making the air around Kuki and Raika to stiffen, his heavy gaze freezing them.
Name: Raika Eledad
Class: Jolt Artisan
Title: One Who Aims: (Increase Accuracy)
HP: 4250, MP: 4480, SP: 3100
Attack: 1682, Defense: 368, Sharpness: 18%
Magic Attack: 1105, Magic Defense: 168, Speed: 643
STR: 48 INT: 41
VIT: 31 WIS: 32
DEX: 453 LUK: 10
Available Points: 0
Name: Kuki Windrow
Class: Wind Soldier
Title: One Who Aims: (Increase Accuracy)
HP: 4420, MP: 3960, SP: 3640
Attack: 1833, Defense: 368, Sharpness: 18%
Magic Attack: 982, Magic Defense: 168, Speed: 638
STR: 51 INT: 35
VIT: 39 WIS: 29
DEX: 468 LUK: 8
Available Points: 0
To think that not just one, but two of them had Special Classes. He has never heard these names before, so unless Roprase has more than the natural classes in Peranim, he’ll assume that they’re special.
But after seeing their menus, Kudo put them aside and slowly turned to the two, taking away their breaths as they felt that they were drowning in his jade-colored eyes. Kudo has kept himself quiet all this time, and now, he was about to speak.
He slammed the table with all his might.
“You guys are higher-leveled than me?!”
The two left their jaws hanging open after hearing the unexpected question out of Kudo’s mouth. Kuki also slammed the table, standing up in disbelief.
“You’re saying that you’re lower level than us?! Are you serious?!”
His exasperated expression showed his frustration, especially over what happened just a few minutes ago. So, of course, he would be the most disappointed.
“Rai!” Kuki turned to Raika with a furious gaze. “You went and asked someone weaker than us to help us!”
“But I saw it!”
Raika also stood up, slamming the poor table with her hands as she retorted.
“He took down three shafoxes in one move! It can’t be possible that he’s lower level…”
As her words drifted off, she looked to Kudo asking for confirmation. Her eyes became teary and her ears drooped, creating an image which would break Kudo’s heart to see her disappointed. However, his head drooped, and opened up his own Status menu to show the others his own statistics.
Kuki and Raika stared at the menu for a while, and both became in shock.
“Y-You’re 30 levels below us! Raika, you were just seeing things after all!”
Kuki became more bitter as he snapped back at Raika who had an expression of disbelief.
“But it can’t be… My eyes never get anything wrong… Not to mention, what’s with this class? Only half of it is unreadable.”
Raika, instead of dwelling on her mistake, was more surprised at the strange Class below Kudo’s name, looking back at him for more confirmation which made Kudo’s sweat trickle down his temple.
“I’m a… little special,” Kudo slowly explained as much as he could. “But I guarantee that Raika is right.”
Despite that he was lower leveled than he believed, he didn’t want Raika to turn out to be a crazy liar, so he made sure that he stated that.
Raika’s eyes in response widened from his words, feeling a little relieved as a small smile formed from his affirmation. However, Kuki still looked at Kudo with a doubtful gaze, not believing a single word.
“You said that you’ll train us… but you’re lower level than us! How can you even train us when we beat you in levels!?”
He pointed at Kudo with a scowl, as if he was pointing out a swindler. Kudo put on an awkward expression as he felt that he has deceived them, even though he did not mean to at all.
In the meanwhile, Raika kept looking at his stats, and made a shocking realization, getting her eyes to widen, her fluffy ears instantly popped up straight.
As Kuki kept glaring at Kudo, his sleeve on his arm was suddenly tugged by her. She kept tugging which made Kuki start to grit his teeth, his right brow twitching in annoyance.
“What is it, Rai?!” Raika snapped back to see what exactly she wanted to say.
“Kui… he’s really strong. Look at his stats.”
Kuki raised his brow as Raika said those words in awe while still looking at the status menu. Looking at the status again more carefully, his eyes widened as well.
All of his physical and mental stats were nearly 3 times higher than theirs were. Kuki was left gaping at the sheer difference in their numbers.
“N-No way…” Kuki stuttered in disbelief. “How strong is this guy? How did you get this high?! Our time in school never got us this high!”
Kudo’s ears perked up after hearing that strange word, getting Raika to look in surprise.
“Y-You did go to Adventurer’s School, didn’t you?” She asked, barely believing what she just asked.
Hearing that, Kudo’s head tilted sideways, like a pet who just heard a new command all of a sudden.
“Y-You never went to Adventurer’s school?!” Raika burst out in shock which in turn made Kuki shocked.
“Hah?! No way!” He denied. “It’s mandatory for everyone aiming to be an adventurer to study at an Adventurer’s school! How else can he get to level 100 otherwise?!”
Kuki tried to debunk Raika’s claim, but Kudo paid very close attention to what they were saying, putting on a look of exasperation.
“I never went to school, but I raised my levels on my own for a long time, you know!”
Hearing his exclamation while putting on a furrowed look made Kuki look back in surprise and in awe.
“T-Then… you leveled up on your own?! So you raised those stats on your own, too…”
Kuki couldn’t believe what he was saying as Raika’s ears sprang up in wonder, her eyes sparkling, at the level of strength visible by his stats alone.
Seeing their heavy stares full of wonder, Kudo felt that they were praising him in their own way, getting him to flash a smile.
“I don’t like to slow down. I’m all about efficiency!”
After receiving that comment full of energy, the two trainees were left with an air of wonder around them. It was as if they were seeing a veteran in a young teenager’s body.
Before long, their meals came in from the waiters that passed by. They decided to eat a meal to commemorate their working together, or it’s like that for Kudo, who wanted to get to know them a little better other than seeing their status menus.
When they finished and the waiter came by to give them their bill, Kudo was the one that paid for them. Though the two wanted to object to this, considering that they don’t have that much money, Kudo told them that he will deal with it.
When they left the open air restaurant, Kudo looked back and saw a surprising reaction from the two. Both heads drooped down, and it looked like dark clouds formed atop of their heads. Their faces seemed rather depressed.
“I can’t believe that a lower-leveled guy paid for our meals.”
Kuki took a bitter pill to swallow as he admitted his own self-worth through his words.
“I feel really ashamed as an adventurer…”
Raika felt the same way, heaving a heavy sigh from accepting the cold facts.
Kudo could only give a wry chuckle from their poor reactions to their state of affairs.
They began to walk for a bit of reprieve from reality, and on their way while walking through the barren parts of the city, Kudo asked about the adventurer’s school that he has heard for the first time today.
“You really don’t know?”
Raika raised a question, putting on a look of surprise as he didn’t even know of the school’s existence.
“How do you not know this?” Kuki had his hands resting behind his head as he casually made a slightly sarcastic remark.
“Well, where I’m from, we don’t exactly have those schools…”
Hearing his situation, Raika made an easy-to-understand summary of what the adventurer’s schools are.
Basically, it’s like an academy for adventurers. When a young student wishes to be an adventurer, at the age of 15, they go to an adventurer’s school to help young adventurers reach level 100 to start them off.
They work with other students to increase their levels on small monsters used as their practice matches. They also gain important social guidance on how to participate in a party. The adventurer’s main focus is to purely level the adventurers and as soon as they reach their meta, they’ll leave the school and be on their own.
As Kudo listened, he felt a strange sense of wastefulness from their methods. They only focus on leveling, but they don’t help them build their stats or even help them train their crafting skills. Apparently, the adventurers who take an interest of this receives a free Crafting Skill education after they pay up their tuition for the school, but they don’t truly focus on crafting items.
Hearing more information, Kudo decided to stop and turn back to face the two, leaving them to stop in their tracks.
“Let’s go over to the marketplace from before and buy some supplies to start off.”
Hearing this idea, Kuki and Raika looked back at each other with a slight droop on their brows, then looked back at Kudo, their faces darkening.
“W-We don’t have much money…” Raika let out a saddened whimper.
“Don’t worry,” Kudo flashed a bright smile. “I’ll cover you. It’s only natural since we’re in a party now… though we still need to officially make one…”
He looked up when he mentioned that, putting his hand on his chin as he realized that he needed to make a party.
Does he have to go back to the Alpha Heart guild? The memories of him seeing that catman, along with every one of his mother’s overbearing guild members caused dread to pass through his body. He certainly does not want to go through that, but he has to create a party.
“Hey,” Kudo decided to take the long route. “Where can we go make a party?”
“Isn’t it obvious?” Kuki contorts into an annoyed expression. “In the adventurer’s guild hall! Where else!?”
As Kuki’s shout grated Raika’s ears, they sprang up like bamboo sticks as she realized an important piece of information.
“M-Mr. Braven, did you perhaps just moved here recently?”
Kudo stiffened up after hearing his name being called ‘Mr. Braven’.
“Y-Yeah, due to circumstances, I just moved into this city a few days ago…”
“I see… that makes sense now.”
After realizing his situation, Raika shot a dirty look at Kuki. Her eyes spoke out loud that he was too rude to Kudo, getting him to feel her heavy stare with a sweat running down his back. Kudo took this chance to make a statement.
“H-Hey, about my name…”
Though he said those words as gentle as he could, Raika’s long ears stood up on end and shivered, her body straightened up like a pole as her eyes widened to the extent of looking as if she just made a fatal mistake.
“D-Did I call you something I shouldn’t have?! I’m sorry!!”
She instantly apologized without hearing Kudo’s thoughts and bowed quickly up and down like a drawing bridge gone haywire. Though Kudo was amazed at how flexible Raika was as she fluctuated in a frenzied panic.
“D-Don’t worry! I don’t mean anything bad! I just feel weird when someone calls me ‘Mr’—just Kudo is fine.”
Kudo pleaded which finally made Raika cease her bowing and looked up, her eyes watery on the verge of tears rolling down from the fatal mistake she could have caused.
“R-Really?” Raika said, her hope rising on the fact that it was a misunderstanding.
“Yeah!” Kudo assured her. “And, if it’s okay with you two, can I call you by your given names too?”
Kudo put on a smile to soften their panicking states. As Raika raised herself up, she and Kuki looked back at each other, their faces going red.
The reason for doing so is that nobody has called them by their given names for a long time other than each other. Nobody would ever go past the barrier after using their last names, and it was mostly because nobody felt like it. That was the way Kuki and Raika dealt with many other party members before.
But now Kudo wanted to know them. Raika huddled her arms together, her face blushing like a rosy-pink bunny while Kuki brushed the side of his hair, pursing his lips.
“F-Fine… You can call us that.”
Kuki was the first to say. It surprised Kudo since Kuki was against this sort of team-up. Then, he pointed at Kudo, ready to call him out.
“We’ll call you Kudo from now on, too! You better not regret it!”
Seeing that it was a confirmation, Kudo quickly nodded in agreement. A smile formed on his face.
“M-Me too! You can call me Raika as well, K-K-Kudo!”
Though not as confident as Kuki, Raika barely managed to say before the redness in her cheeks overtook her entire face, now becoming embarrassed that she has failed many times.
Kudo saw these two and felt a strange resemblance to how he managed to team up with Hinota in the first place. A strange feeling of comfort rose from his chest.
“Thanks. Where I come from, a party should get rid of formalities. We can become closer as we fight together and journey together.”
The way he said it was as if he was reflecting in his own mind. These words were the ones taught to him when he was just starting out, and it led him to make many companions that he treasured along the way. Those very feelings transcended from his words to the trainees, leaving them in awe.
“Now then,” Kudo continued. “How about we get some supplies while you guys tell me more about your special classes?”
He made a smirk as he was getting excited about this topic, getting the two to instantly reply:
Somehow, as if the entire scene just now didn’t exist, now they’re calling Kudo ‘sir’…
Well, baby steps, at least.
They took this chance to head to the marketplace with a skip in Kudo’s step as they searched for extra supplies for their newfound party. The reason for the exciting step was because Kudo gets to ask his new party members about their classes. If there’s anything Kudo enjoys most, is discerning other people’s classes—other than adventuring, of course.
“M-My class, [Jolt Artisan] is Lightning-attributed. I specialize in long-distance shooting with my bow. My skills are…”
Raika pulled out her skills list and showed it to Kudo, as if she was relaying her abilities to an instructor.
【Shock Arrow】 Lv. 38 (Proficiency: 27%)
Using an arrow, it becomes charged with some cute electricity, sending enough power to blast any opponent cutely!
MP Cost: 25
【Ethereal Blast】 Lv. 31 (Proficiency: 6%)
You make a cute arrow straight from the electricity of your mana! You cutely shoot the enemy with the electric-charged mana arrow and deliver enough power to push them away a few feet.
MP Cost: 75
【Electric Body】 Lv. 26 (Proficiency: 65%)
You can charge electricity in your cute body, your cutesy shots become stronger and more accurate as it charges your cute nerve systems. Arrow shot while in this cute state will pierce your enemies’ nerves, causing them cute paralysis.
MP Cost: 55
【Jolt Shower】 Lv. 14 (Proficiency: 42%)
You can cast up to 12 cute jolts from the shot of your cute arrow, making cutely electrical destruction all around you in a radius of 150 centimeters. The more levels this skill has, the cute skill becomes more powerful, and the radius will increase its area.
MP Cost: 55
Kudo studied her skills closely, not letting a single piece of detail escape from his gaze. In his mind, he wondered if it was necessary to say 'cutely' so many times.
“My class is [Air Soldier], a Wind-attributed Class,” Kuki was next in line. “I specialize in using guns to hit my targets. These are my skills.”
Kuki quickly brought up his skills as if he just want him to finish this quickly so he can put it back.
【Air Bullet】 Lv. 41 (Proficiency: 38%)
When shooting a gun, the bullet cooly becomes encased in a flurry of cool air currents. The cool wind power is able to cut through defenses cooly without resistance.
MP Cost: 30
【Air Turn Blind】 Lv. 24 (Proficiency: 5%)
This cool skill allows you to make your cool body disappear entirely. You use the cool wind to cover yourself, making you gone from the enemies’ minds if they aren’t cool enough.
MP Cost: 100 per minute.
【Airsplosion】 Lv. 21 (Proficiency: 36%)
Gathers an extreme cool amount of compressed air in a small radius, and cooly releases it causing a massive explosion. The more cool air gathered, the more cool damage it causes.
MP Cost: 150
【Air Dragon】 Lv. 17 (Proficiency: 57%)
This lets you cooly call out a giant dragon made of your cool air currents. It cooly flies through enemies and cooly give them a swift and cool end.
MP Cost: 250
After checking up on his skills, Kudo had this burning question which he needed to be answered as soon as possible.
“What are guns?”
“Y-You don’t even know what guns are?! Just where did you come from, anyway?!”
Kuki shouted back, his frustrations reaching his peak as he asked for his origins. The way he asked though got Kudo to chuckle.
“I came from a place without guns.”
His light joke betrayed Kudo as he couldn’t help but laugh. Kuki, on the other hand, didn’t take it well as he got even more frustrated. Though, Raika was the only one enjoying the teasing on Kuki as she giggled beneath her breath.
After Kudo wonderfully burned Kuki, he then explained in his own words what guns are. As he explained, a memory sparked like a flame within Kudo’s mind, recalling the same type of information that Hinota gave him one time after the Olinia event.
The three kept walking until they reached the plaza, a fountain in the middle while surrounded by small trees. The three entered and took a stop there, with Kudo taking another closer look at their skills.
“These skills… are amazing!”
Suddenly, the serious mood around him began to bright up like the sky, his eyes glinting from the numerous possibilities. The two’s sweat trickled down their heads after seeing his sudden excitement just sprang up like Raika’s ears.
“Sure, they don’t do much by themselves, but they’re amazing when working together as a group! Raika’s skill, Ethereal Blast, is especially valuable that allows you to attack from a distance without ammo! Kuki’s skill, Air Bullet, ignores monsters’ defenses even if their skin is armor-like! All these skills are amazing!”
The constant usage of the word ‘amazing’ made the two realize that it was his favorite word, his catchphrase, so to speak.
Even Kudo was starting to notice his one-word vocabulary, his cheeks reddening like an apple as he cleared his throat, bringing him back to his serious mood.
Kuki and Raika were also surprised at how they commented their skills, believing that he was disappointed. It left them blushing from his praise, each misunderstanding his intentions.
“Guys, I think I know a way to improve your fighting skills. But you’re gonna have to work hard to do so. It won’t be a walk in the park.”
The way he explained all the while looking at them with his determined round eyes made the two shook in anticipation.
“It’s going to be grueling, and it’s going to be mind-taxing. Before we go, I want to know how serious you guys are…”
Furrowing his brows, a wave of still air passed through the trainee’s bodies. Kuki gulped imaginary air while Raika’s shoulders trembled after seeing this sudden change.
“Working as an adventurer is not all fun and games. It pays a lot, that’s for sure, but it’s not something to make light of. I know myself how deep and dark the world of adventuring can be…”
His tone took a dive as his eyes changed to a distant look when he said that. Then, he turned those eyes on them.
“Kuki,” Kudo changed his direction to Kuki. “Why did you want to be an adventurer?”
“H-Huh…?” After a moment of dizziness, he asked: “W-Why do you want to know that?”
“Because when you say your reason to stake your life, it has to be a good reason. It gives you the motivation to keep going. Can you tell me?”
Kudo pleaded, looking to see if his reason is enough to drive him forward through the adventure’s harshness. He wanted to know if he’s willing to keep going and not stop in the middle.
Kuki, in response, looked away and pursed his lips. His heart raced as he figured that he should tell this eventually, but saying it might seem like a joke to him. That’s what Kuki thought.
But it looks like he has no choice but to say it. Perhaps, he might be reinvigorated during so.
“I… I want to be as strong and cool as my dad. My father became an adventurer and left so that he can be on his journey. All I keep hearing about him is how incredible he was, and how strong he is as a gunner. That’s why…”
Kuki’s eyes directed down to his holsters, where his dual guns were. Kudo could see that a moment of passion burned within his eyes when he gazed at his guns before turning back to Kudo.
“That’s why I chose my Special Class, the class that uses guns. I wanted to follow in his footsteps. Though… so far it hasn’t come true yet.”
Considering his past mistakes, including yesterday, he felt that he was nowhere near his father’s level, let alone in the same league as him. He failed in his one mission on his adventure, and was ready to hear laughter.
However, he heard something else.
“That’s a good reason,” Kuki looked up to see Kudo smiling at him. “You shouldn’t feel down on how you started. Everyone fuddles in their starting line, but that doesn’t mean that they won’t grow.”
Learning this lesson from Hinota, he smiled which made Kuki widen his eyes, the hazy fog covering his goal ahead dissipating. Then, Kuki changed his sight on Raika.
“What’s your reason, Raika?”
Hearing that question, Raika bent her head down, her hands clutching her knees tightly while squinting her eyes shut. It was extremely embarrassing for her to admit. However, if Kuki did it, then she can do it as well.
“Kuki just suddenly wanted to be an adventurer. He just took me in so that he can get support. I didn’t want to be one, honestly. I’m always… so scared of getting hurt.”
She hesitated on answering. Because she felt that everyone gets hurt, so by being afraid of it, it made her turn into a coward to everyone’s eyes.
“I always hide from other people… because I didn’t want to hear them say bad things about me. I’m… scared of a lot of things.”
A sense of familiarity passed though Kudo’s heart. It was as if he was seeing himself when he first just started.
“But… you know…” Raika’s head raised, her eyes beginning to glint. “It’s not like I don’t want to change. I don’t want to stay like this forever… always afraid of other people.”
Her eyes became watery. She looked like she was on a verge to tear up, but it wasn’t from frustration. It was because she wanted this so much that it hurts.
“I… want to change! I want to become someone who others can rely on, not just think of me as some burden! I don’t… I don’t want to be afraid anymore!”
She shouted, as if to clarify the reasoning to keep going on her journey. It raised the spirit within her, unknowingly shouting out her inner desire. Kudo felt overwhelmed by her strong passion to change, to overcome her fears. Even Kuki was surprised—it was the first time that he heard this straight from Raika.
“So… that’s why you agreed to come with me.”
Kuki remembered that time when he was asking—more like persuading—for her to come. He knew that it would take a long time to consider her, and he didn’t want to go alone. But surprisingly, she agreed to come with him. Raika, a scaredy-bunny girl, actually agreed to come with him on such a dangerous journey as an adventurer.
“I always thought it was because you were pitying me and went with me cuz’ you’re too nice.”
He admitted as he brushed his head. Raika shook her head faintly, looking up with watery eyes.
“I thought that… you would think that it would be pointless and laugh at it…”
“There’s no way I would laugh at it!”
Kuki suddenly shouted, a vein throbbing on his temple. Raika jumped in surprise while her ears straightened up like sticks.
“Rai, you want this more than anything else! I won’t let anyone laugh at that!”
Kuki clenched his fist, signifying that he would beat up anyone if they tried to. As Raika was left silent by his exclamation, Kudo smiled to himself.
“Raika,” Kudo admitted. “I… also felt the same way. When I first started, I wanted to change myself. I was always pensive and quiet… I didn’t want anyone to think of me as some loner. Being an adventurer meant that I could have lifelong friends, something that I always wanted…”
Kuki and Raika kept looking in his direction, the air from before becoming warmer by his words.
“So when I became an adventurer, it helped me reset my quiet personality. It helped me changed to be someone that I wanted to be…”
When she heard that his circumstances were the same, Raika widened her eyes. She never thought that Kudo of all people would be a nervous wreck like her. As she was left in awe along with Kuki, Kudo stated:
“Those are good reasons. They’re worthy to follow through. If you keep telling yourselves of your personal goals, then that’s all you need to move forward, to become stronger.”
His words of encouragement made their chest swell with excitement. The two looked at Kudo with starry eyes.
“Keep telling yourselves that, because it’ll be your lifeline for the hell you’re going through.”
Kudo smirked as he said it. Those words alone replaced the warm atmosphere into a sudden, cut-throat tension.
“ “W-What are we going to go through…?” ”
The two of them said together, their blood running cold.