Hour Empty Child
Adding in his fruitful education along with some surprising facts, Kudo heads out of their estate to rush towards the StormPlus meeting place.
Dashing past the vibrant colors of the city, the bustling adventurers along with the energetic citizens, Kudo was able to get used to these wonderful sights. Though there were some issues regarding the culture, Kudo enjoyed every bit of it these last few weeks. He turned on the corner of the sidewalk, his memories recalling every direction he learned thus far.
He passed through the plaza, and headed towards one of the largest locations in the city—the Triun Grand Park. Within this metal-fortress of a city, there still existed several locations of nature that allowed the city to retain its luster. This park was one of them as the entire area was covered with luscious grasslands, a stone path marking a wavy road that extended all across the park, and aside from that path was a playground for the children—a set of swings and see-saws and other rides which Kudo has no clue that existed beforehand like a mana-charged spinning wheel that is the current craze for younger children.
As he ran along the winding stone path, he saw at the center of the park a large statue that sized about 3 meters standing on a white-stone podium, with a plate on it that spoke of a man which Kudo had no clue who it could be.
But it was the meeting place for the StormPlus as he sees his two comrades standing before it, waiting for their leader.
“You’re finally here, boss!” Kuki shouted as he waved at Kudo to come forward, Raika showing an excited smile beside him.
Ever since he took these two into his hands, it has increased their impression of him even further. Kuki would sometimes call Kudo ‘Boss’ just for fun, but Raika continues to call him Kudo. Their early awkward moments have dissipated, so now they didn’t hold back their camaraderie towards him.
“You guys had good sleep, right?” Kudo had to make sure which made the two nod their heads.
“It was good!”
The two reported back as if they were soldiers who responded to their captain.
“Alright,” Going with the flow, Kudo clenched his fist. “Then, let’s go out and adventure!”
They only have one goal left for today—to complete the last quest needed to raise their rank to Rank-D. Though Kudo felt anguished that it took him this long just to get to the next rank, considering that he was just getting started in this country, it’s the fastest time he could do.
They head towards the Adventurer’s Hub and received their quest which is to eliminate the sprites near the vicinity of a Mana Station, siphoning their mana stones’ power. It became a big issue for the people working there as they rely on their resources for their business.
A Mana Station is a resource-filling service station which restores the magical power of Ames’ mana stones, an essential service which helps greatly for citizens and adventurers on their long journeys.
This quest was quite high up on the ladder of difficulty for the E-Rank adventurers as Sprites are not to be trifled with. Their special ability is absorbing elemental mana attacks, so if a sprite with the same element faces against a [Mage] who specialize in that element, the mage has lost before they even start fighting.
Unfortunately, the way to the Mana Station was quite far off, so they needed to hitch a ride. But it was quickly rectified as Kuki and Raika notified Kudo that there was a transportation service to call upon for their exact dilemma. All they needed to do is to stand aside a long metal pole that had a sign sticking out at the top showing a picture of a drawn Ame. Then, after a few minutes, a yellow-colored Ame would drive up to them, and give them a ride which in return, they would pay a fee that measures up in the distance traveled.
Kudo felt his chest lighten as he thought that he needed to call upon his mother’s driver, Chui, to give him a ride. Even though she would be glad to give service to him, he still felt awkward on using his mother’s maids like that. He didn’t want to use them like that since he wouldn’t even go to the guild despite that his mother wanted him to.
Finally, the StormPlus reached their destination. After paying their fee, the driver gave them his contact info in case they needed a ride back. Adventurers who use their services gets the contact info for the sole purpose of getting back after their quest was finished. That way, the adventurers don’t have to be stuck in the middle of nowhere.
After all the work was done, it was now time for the hunt…
The screeching sounds of sprites losing their lives filled the air before they were drowned out by the sounds of harsh winds, electric roars, and gunshots.
The Mana station, a red rectangle-shaped building with a large sign on the tiled roof that had the name ‘Fill-er-up’, was surrounded by numerous sprites that stalk around the vicinity.
The sprites in general were small creatures, over the size of a fist, that floated in the air. Their bodies were comprised of nothing but their element, which in this case, was a swirling mass of electricity which at the center were their sharp blue eyes. They had no mouth, but the mana within their bodies created the sounds anyway. Because their bodies were made up of mana, their source of nourishment comes from the consumption of mana.
It is this reason that no magical attacks can touch them if they had the same attribute as the sprite’s natural constitution. For example, sprites who are Lightning-attributed are 100% resistant to Lightning magic and skills, and even nourishes on it which can restore their lost mana.
So, in this situation, Raika, who has a Lightning-attribute Class, is a terrible match up against their current opponents as her Lightning skills became obsolete against them.
“Stupid sprites! Don’t move, damn it!”
“Kui, stay calm! Remember what Kudo said!”
The two childhood friends bickered as they were ganged up against 5 sprites at once. Three faced against Kuki while Raika dealt with two on her own. Raika was busy enough facing two as her skills were sealed, so she had no choice but to rely on her weapons.
One of the sprites, a single swirl of electricity, narrowed its blue eyes as it screeched from within its body, sparks skittered out which condensed in front of it. The mana-charged sphere in front, made purely of electricity, was then launched towards Raika.
Raika’s round green eyes narrowed, focusing on the electric ball shifting left and right aiming right at her core spot. Then, using her bountiful [DEX] stat, she bended her knees and forced her legs to jump up. Her body bended sideways like a coil, causing the ball of electricity to just barely graze her, the sparks tingling her skin as her body made way towards the attacking sprite.
Her hands shaking, she grabbed the item inside of her holster on her hip, and drew a sharp dagger that showed off a strong sheen of its blade. Using her body’s momentum, she sliced the sprite with an upward swing, cutting apart the mass of electric mana which caused one final shriek to escape before it dissipated, small sparks skittered in the air.
The other sprite saw the death of its comrade and resolved itself to charge right at Raika in her blind spot—her back.
However, it failed to comprehend her dexterity.
Feeling the intense jolts near her back, her usual feeling when she uses her skills, she arched her back and flipped over the charging sprite. The sparks pricked her back as she turned in the air, and swung her arm downward.
The final cry of the last sprite she faced was reduced to mere particles of sparks as it was sliced behind from Raika’s blade.
Landing on her feet, she exhaled as she still felt her fingers tingling from slicing the mana bodies apart.
“This dagger Kudo made is incredible!” She spoke in praise for the weapon in her hand, a single-edge curved blade with a small mark of jolts running down it. The brown hilt gripped within her dainty hands had small engravings of kittens huddled together which Raika enjoyed the most. “I was able to take them out with one attack!”
Kudo figured that if her long-range skills don't work, then she needed a weapon that can help her out when it involves facing opponents that were too close for comfort. The dagger is Kudo’s personal achievement as it was Ancient grade, increasing its damage by the dozen.
Meanwhile, Kuki did his own dexterity show as he dodged every mana-charged attacks from the three sprites. Once they missed, Kuki would land and aim with precision at one sprite, and pulling the trigger of his new gun, shoots at the sprite with no mercy.
Since the guns were crafted in metal, it was within Kudo’s specialty that he could create them. After researching the basic blueprints of the weapon, Kudo worked day and night to make up a new weapon for Kuki’s personal use. These guns, with a rectangle shaped barrel and a custom black grip handle for Kuki to hold onto without hurting his hands, were a vast improvement from his old ones as they were increased in damage and shooting speed.
It benefitted well for Kuki who was speed-oriented, and it took a lot of hard work for Kudo as he had to figure out how to use gunpowder for a massive effect.
The gun shot out the bullet and grazed one sprite on his left, however, it was still standing.
Since their bodies were made out of pure mana, it shouldn’t be possible to take them out physically. However, each sprite has one single weakpoint—their Corrupted Jewel that takes physical form and grants them with mana. At the center, usually invisible behind their thick mass of mana, if an Adventurer destroys it, the sprite’s life force will be extinguished.
Raika showed that example as she sliced them apart with her dagger. However, in Kuki’s case, the bullet merely grazed its electrical form, not its core.
Though it only grazed one, the three took it as a sign that an impending danger was afoot, so the three acted in kind, and flanked Kuki by charging in all at once.
Fortunately, Kuki was waiting for that.
With a smirk on his lips, he lifts his gun high, and shouted: “——《Airsplosion》!”
His gun glowed a faintish lime-green, and after pulling the trigger, no bullet shot out. Instead, what came out was a burst of wind in a form of a welling sphere, increasing in size from its barrel with gale winds that blew apart everything within its radius, including the unlucky sprites.
The skill, Airsplosion, is a powerful close-quarters multi-target skill. In exchange for its range, the massive power imbued in those furious winds will rip apart everything in its path, friend and foe alike.
As such, Raika quickly stepped away as she was done with her battle, letting her partner take care of the rest. With her eyes widened, her ears twitching in excitement, she watched Kuki become swallowed by the powerful winds along with the sprites.
The winds softened, the radius decreasing as it dissipated with time. Kuki, at the epicenter, heaved heavy breaths to regain the air that was lost within the Airsplosion. He surveyed the area, and another smirk formed on his lips.
There were no sprites—only the corrupted jewel left behind. As the skill was a mana-attack, and it was a different element, it delivered damage that became fatal for the sprites.
“Hehe,” Kuki could not hold in his elation. “You saw that, Rai? I’m the best when it comes to dealing damage to tons of monsters at once!”
Kuki spoke haughtily, pointing at himself with his thumb as a glint of arrogance shone from his toothy grin.
“You only managed to because Kudo taught you to head in between them and not cower away from them,” Raika gave her retort which Kuki flinched from, his eyes anguishing as her words were nothing but the truth.
“T-That may be true, but Kudo said that I can do it with my own power!”
Kuki’s brows furrowed as he defended himself, but then he notices that Raika didn’t seem all that energetic as she looked at her dagger in her hand.
“Kudo has… always been helping us get better,” Her heart grew heavy as she recalls. “He trains us, tells us what we were doing wrong, and gives us advice on becoming stronger. He even went out of his way to forge us new weapons which should have been way too expensive for us to even consider.”
Hearing her words, Kuki felt stung himself. He looked away, as if he was avoiding it, but Raika sees for herself at their situation.
“Even though… Even though we haven’t even told him about… and he’s doing so much for us anyway…”
“Hey,” Kuki intervened, catching Raika’s attention. “Kudo isn’t the kind to remind us what we owe him! He’s nothing like those guys!”
“But that’s my point!” Raika snapped back, catching him silent. “I don’t want to take advantage of him because of that…”
Raika realized her volume was higher than usual and shrunk back to her hunched shoulders and twitching bunny ears.
“Ahh…” Kuki brushed his head. “You know I feel the same way, Rai. I hate that we’re holding out on him. He doesn’t… deserve this. Not after all the things he got for us and all the stuff he’s done for us.”
Though Kuki agreed with her, it didn’t make Raika feel any better, her hand clutching the dagger tightly while her heart continues to give pangs of guilt.
“Hey, guys!” The two’s heads rose when they heard Kudo’s voice in the distance.
He was walking towards him while carrying a bag that was bulbous in every part. It must be the corrupted jewels that he collected from taking down his share of Sprites.
“I think I got enough!”
Kudo told that the three of them should split up to take out more sprites. Other than the five they defeated, Kuki and Raika took out a fair bit while Kudo faced them off alone. The two asked if they could support him, but Kudo relayed that they need to work together to improve on their own while he’s away.
Even up to now, Kudo was thinking about their well-being. When she saw him heading back to them, Raika’s chest tightened. She believed that they don’t deserve such an incredible and kind adventurer.
“Alright!” Kudo shouted in elation. “With these, our quest is completed! Good thing everything went well, huh? Let’s get back and tell them the good news!”
Kudo referred to the owner of the mana station as he flashed a smile which prompted Kuki and Raika to nod in agreement. Kudo led the way to the owner with the bag in hand while Kuki and Raika followed suit, but as the distance grew, Kuki etched closer to Raika.
“We’ll tell him—in time. Until then, let’s pay him back as much as we can. That way, he’ll get something out of this.”
Raika nodded, her heart tightened from the guilt carried within it.
After an arduous ride, the trio made it back to the city with the help of the service Ame. Returning to the bustling atmosphere, Kudo breathed in the compact air and felt as if he has returned home.
(Guess I’m getting used to this.)
He looked back as this thought passed through his mind, seeing the two comrades who have journeyed with him all this time he was here. Kuki and Raika were wearing their new armor to show off their progress as adventurers.
Kuki had a stylized version of medium armor, wearing a gray hoodie jacket with flexible platings on his front and back to guard against unwanted attacks. His black pants, with a large belt tilted to the side that had various containers for his bullets. He wore black fingerless gloves to make it easy for him to pull his triggers, and ash-coal sneakers for smooth movements.
Raika had a more girlish version of an archer’s garb: Cocoa leather armor that covered her entire torso along with long fingerless gloves, the left hand covered up with a gauntlet to assure shots without interruption. Assenting her hip outline were black hot pants with long leather boots, only leaving her snow-white supple thighs to show off. She had a hoodie behind her back in case of precipitation.
“P-Please don’t look at me like that…!” Raika whined as she hid away her showing thighs with her arms, sparking a wry chuckle from Kudo.
A few days ago, Kudo took Kuki and Raika out to the marketplace to look for new armor to wear. As their levels increased, it’s only natural that they needed a change in armor to go along with it. While they were looking for medium armor, as Kudo was not able to create leather-based armors, he noticed Raika staring at one particular armor that she’s wearing today.
Kudo offered to buy it for her since she was so keen on it, but she outrightly refused:
“I-I can’t wear such a cute outfit!” Raika’s eyes widened after even hearing such a notion. “It’ll look bad on me!”
Kudo could hardly believe what she was saying, seeing for himself how adorable she was. But then Kuki dragged his ear towards him to whisper.
“Just buy it,” Kuki stated. “Whether she likes it or not, she always says that she looks bad in anything.”
“Oh… got it.”
Following Kuki’s advice, Kudo brought it up to the clerk and bought the armor for her, with or without her permission.
Raika, of course, was against it, but Kudo has already went and bought it, leaving her opinion out. Then, to make it worse for her, Kuki forced her to wear her new armor to ‘break it in’, and though Raika wanted to refuse at first…
“Come on, Rai!” Kuki shouted. “Kudo went out of his way to buy it for you because he thinks it’s good for you! The armor has nice traits, so the least you could do for him is to wear it proudly!”
Hearing Kuki’s sensible logic, Raika’s raised her teary-eyes and saw Kudo’s awkward face. He didn’t want to put her in such a terrible spot, but it was for her own good.
Using the stalls to change clothing, Raika put on her armor and finally showed off her new attire. However, her reaction was not what they expected.
“I can’t believe you’re making me do this, Kui! I told you that I would look bad in this! Now even Kudo is seeing me look so bad… I’m so embarrassed, I could die!”
She continuously whined, trying to hide away her shameful body by sheltering herself with her arms and knees, her furry ears twitching up and down in total humiliation.
But in Kudo’s boyish mind, her body outline and her silky smooth skin showing off made quite an impression, and her actions of trying to cover it up made Kudo utter these words against his will.
“Raika, what do you think you’re doing?” Kudo asked with a solemn expression. “Killing me with your cuteness?”
Raika’s face rose to face Kudo, her cheeks blushing faintly. “W-What are you—”
“—cuz’ it’s working.”
His sudden exclamation as he showed a poker-face like expression made Raika’s face brighten up red like a mana stone lamp. Kuki’s laughter resounded, holding his belly to rub off his pained sides.
“T-T-That’s not true! Y-You’re just saying that!”
She snapped back, but Kudo instantly turned to Kuki who was still laughing his butt off.
“Is she always this adorable?”
“Yeah,” Kuki answered without hesitation. “She always says that she looks bad, but honestly, she just too cute to look at.”
“I can see that perfectly,” Kudo folded his arms as he nodded in complete understanding.
“S-Stop talking about me right in front of me~!”
It wasn’t long before Raika started tearing up. The boys took responsibility to comfort her for about an hour.
Back at present time, Raika still uncomfortable with showing off her body through her armor, Kudo’s right pocket began to vibrate. Kudo jumped in surprise, only to realize that his phone is responsible for the surprise. Rolling his eyes, Kudo grabbed the phone, the same one that Hikari gave him to communicate easily, as he sees the very person’s name on his screen.
“Wow, your ‘Mommy’ calls you a lot,” Kuki smirked as he joked which brought about Kudo’s stink eye, hiding away his phone from this prying friend’s eyes.
“I gotta take this…” He spoke with a solemn tone. “Wait for me somewhere, okay?” Kudo ordered which made the two nod.
“Okay, take your time,” Raika added in as Kudo walked away from them to take his call.
After Kudo left, Kuki raised a question. “I wonder what kind of person his ‘mommy’ is like? She’s always calling him a lot.”
His hands resting behind his head, he can’t imagine someone’s parent calling their child so much every day.
“Maybe she worries a lot?” Raika made her suggestion. “She is his mother after all.”
“Yeah,” Kuki admitted. “But isn’t it strange how he always avoids the topic whenever she comes up? I can understand if he’s embarrassed, but it’s like… he just doesn’t want to talk about her.”
Hearing that, Raika’s long ears twitched, her brows furrowed at her dense friend. “It’s obvious that he just has personal issues! Honestly, Kui, you’re so thickheaded!”
“T-That’s going too far!” Kuki began to sweat after her proclamation, but Raika’s heavy stare brought him down.
Unbeknownst to them, several footsteps were heard from behind. A group of men was walking towards the two. One of their eyes looked up to see the two of them bickering at each other.
“Not to mention, you’re always bothering him with those questions! You’re always so insensitive, Kui!”
“N-Now you’ve done it!”
Kuki was about to lift his sleeve to start his trifling bout with his childhood friend, but then his body tensed up. His natural instincts kicked in as he hears and remembers those heavy footsteps within his earshot. His head slowly turned back around which got Raika to notice, only to widen her eyes, her ears instantly drooped down after seeing the men closing up to them.
“Hey… you guys got a moment?” One of their voices, deep and hoarse, spoke with a grin creeping along his face.