Hour Empty Child
“Kudo, have you been doing well?”
“Yes, I have! Please don’t call every so often. It’s so embarrassing!”
The bout between mother and child continues beside a store, within the alleyway between two buildings. His hand cupping his phone while his cheeks burn up like a reddish cherry.
“Haha, I’m sorry. It’s just that since you never visit the guild, I get worried…”
His heart felt the sting of his mother’s words as she uses his strong sense of guilt. It could also be possible that she doesn’t want him to be lost again, and as such, needs to constantly check up on him.
He heaved a grand sigh. “I-I’ll get to it eventually. Right now, I want to focus on helping my friends.”
“Ah!” Hikari let out a surprised cry. “That’s right! You made some new friends! Have they been good to you?”
She asked with an implied notion of how a mother would ask. His cheeks continuing to redden, he answered:
“Y-Yeah… they’re good people.”
“That’s great,” Hikari put on a satisfied tone. “Did they figure out that you are related to me, by any chance?”
Her next question raised his brow.
“N-No. Why’d you ask?”
For a moment, silence filled his hearing. Feeling his heart racing, he thought of the worst. Could it be that Hikari did not want anyone to know that he was related to her? Could it be that she didn’t want anyone to know that he existed? Those thoughts bared heavily on his heart as he pursed his lips.
“I thought that if they knew, they were just using you because of your status as a Valkyria…”
Her words dispelled those thoughts. It wasn’t that she was embarrassed for everyone to know, but because she was worried about him being used by awful people. If people found out that he is her son, everyone would pester him to get to her. This caused Kudo’s skin to chill just from the thought of it.
“D-Don’t worry,” He assured. “I’ll be careful.”
“Make sure to protect yourself,” Hikari finished off. “Oh, and return home early. Can’t have you staying out too late~”
Shouting his discontent, the both of them shut off their call, leaving Kudo ‘s body to feel fatigued without expending any energy.
“Seriously…” He put his phone back into his pocket and hurried out to the streets to meet up with Kuki and Raika.
Running with swift haste, Kudo returned to where they used to be, near the street corner of a nearby pharmacy, but they were nowhere within his sight. He searched left and right, but there were no hide or tail of them.
“I told them to wait for me somewhere…” Kudo let out in surprise that they went against his words.
Though, he could understand that they themselves are people, so they’re entitled to make their decisions without him. However, it was strange that they would just go away like that without at least warning him.
“Did they go home…?”
They were done with the mission, so it was possible that they went back to rest. But then, he remembered that they still had to go over to the Hub to officially complete their quest.
“No… they went somewhere, but then… it must have been a priority.”
Kudo mumbled, formulating the possible reasons in his head, but still, his heart grew heavy. Raika and Kuki just weren’t the type of people that would go and do something which made them skip warning him in advance.
“…I’m looking for them.”
Resolved, Kudo dashed off from his position to find his missing friends. He could have just called them, but the two didn’t have mana phones like he did.
He searched the streets, turned every corner and passed through every avenue, but they were nowhere to be found.
As he ran through the sidewalk, bypassing every person that stood in his way, he focused his mind completely still and focused on his senses.
If anything will work right now, it would be his ultimate skill that he has been refining since he came to Roprase.
“Come on, Sixth Sense…”
He activated his Support Skill manually, shutting off every thought in his mind and solely focused on his surroundings with his mind’s eye. Thanks to that, everything around him grew dim.
Only several lights were shown, giving off vibrant colors ranging from different shades of the spectrum. After being around them the most, Kudo recognized Kuki and Raika’s colors perfectly.
Kuki was a furious hunter green, and Raika was a shocking yellow. Through all the different colors, he searched for those two alone, being able to perceive the colors even through the buildings and other kinds of obstructions.
Thanks to that, he found them. Two colors that he recognized instantly along with three other unknown colors—brown, gray, and purple. His heart began to race as he dropped everything and glided towards their location…
A powerful blow to his face, Kuki flew in the air like a thrown rock and landed just like one, bouncing once before rolling over.
“Kui!” The bunny beast girl shouted within the confines of the alleyway, the air around her reeked from the rancid smell from the garbage cans as she ran and knelt to him, tears welling in her eyes and her ears drooping in fear.
She sees the burning red mark on his cheek, his bruised blue eye along with the blood dripping from his cut-up lip. It filled her with dread after seeing the horrible state of her childhood friend.
His eyes slowly drew open as he used his hands to stand himself up, raising his head which felt hot within his skin from the stinging pain. He looked ahead to see the three men responsible towering over them.
The three wore uniforms and each one bared a mark on their left side of their chest, a guild crest that had a knight riding a horse. Two large men on the left and right were dressed in their stylized medium armor of a black suit, their bulging muscles practically ripping the seams of their clothes, and one single short man in the middle. The man in the center looked young, but his curled mustache and beard betrayed that youthfulness. His brown hair was slicked back from too much hair products which made it looked grossly unnatural.
Compared to the two, he wore nothing but a purple striped suit, along with a dark fur trench coat that seemed too big for him alone.
“Ah, my boy, you disappoint me,” The man in the center sneered, his words covered with ill-contempt. “You’ve grown stronger and got yourselves some nice equipment, yet you still can’t stand up to one of my boys.”
Kuki gritted his teeth as he was ready to head back into the fray. In the city, it’s illegal to use weapons, but nobody stops adventurers from conceding matters with their fists—as long as they remain out of sight.
“P-Please, wait!” Seeing the fury in Kuki’s eyes, she exclaimed. “W-We have enough money now! All we need is just a few more days and…!”
“I’m afraid, my little bunny, that it’s not enough… See, as usual, you couldn’t measure up to your debt repayment. Despite the fact that I gave you a solid month to pay it all back…”
The man curled his stressed mustache hair, a saddened look in his eyes.
“Screw that!” Kuki snapped back, a throbbing vein on his temple. “We would have paid for it all if you hadn’t kept increasing it every time!” Kuki outstretched his arm and pointed at the conniving modern thieves.
“It’s not our fault,” The man rejected this notion. “We told you—over the months that you don’t give us our money back, we increase the debt with interest. It’s only natural, after all the money we lent you.”
“T-The loan we asked was barely this much those 2 months ago! How were we supposed to get 1.5 million jib in just two months?!”
His voice nearly screeching, he swung his arms in frustration, Raika fearing for what’s to come as her shoulders trembled.
“You’re forgetting something,” The man intervened. “It’s 2.5 million you owe us.”
No longer able to contain his rage, Kuki dashed forward, using the garnered strength during his past few weeks into his arm as he clenched his hand.
But before he knew it, a fist landed on his cheek, his head dragged to the wall and broke it into pieces, a crack resembling a spiderweb from its crater.
Finally conquering her fear, her body rushed in to tend to Kuki, but before she could even reach there, a pang of pain coursed from her left ear. One of the men held the ear in his fist, squeezing it with his grip strength.
Kuki, whose head slid down from the wall, perked his ears up from Raika’s wincing, looking back to see Raika being held by the man on her ear, tears streaming down her cheek from the pain.
His eyes saw nothing but red, his insides ablazed with rage as he gritted his teeth. “Y-You bastard! Don’t touch her!”
Forgetting his pain, his only focus was to save his best friend. He charged in, forgetting everything that happened as he reached out to her, but then the other musclemen grabbed him by the shoulder, and clenched his big fist.
“Gaah!” Kuki’s air was expulsed out of his lungs after being delivered by a fist right in his abdomen. His vision slowly waned as the strength of an adventurer’s fist was enough to draw out blood from his mouth.
“This is how you repay us after all the kind generosity we showed you?” The man in suit walked up to the machoman holding Raika hostage, curling his mustache as he walked. “The kindness we showed you when you had nowhere to turn, your stomachs rumbling, and no roof over your heads? I see that in this generation, the brats are becoming more entitled by the year.”
The man came over to Raika, her eyes widening after seeing the short man closing his face in, his creeping smile rising further as he grabbed a lock of Raika’s blond hair, making Raika’s bones shiver in fear.
“We have told you already what would happen—if you can’t keep your promise, then instead of money, we’ll take something else. Last time, it was a physical reminder to your body, Mr. Windrow, but seeing that you still hadn’t learned your lesson…”
His voice became darker, a lusty visage shown on his face.
“Then we shall teach a lesson to Ms. Eledad about the harsh truth of working in the underside of the world. I’m sure the brothels would pay a fine price for someone as petite and young as her…”
Her irises shrunk from the deal, tears bursting forth like a broken dam as her cheeks were squished by the man.
His earlier rage disappeared in an instant. Now, a certain fear took place as he reached out to grab her away. However, he was grabbed by the head and was pushed down to the ground, his chin scraped by the ground as the second machoman pushed his hand further down to hold him back.
“W-Wait! Wait! W-We’ll do it! We’ll pay up! Just-just please, let her go! She doesn’t deserve this!” Kuki begged, his eyes tearing up themselves.
2 months ago, when the chips were down and they were close to living in the streets, Kuki suggested to take a loan from their guild. Raika told him countless times that doing so is dangerous, and they would most likely regret it, but Kuki didn’t want Raika to live out in the streets because of him.
And now, they’re taking her away.
“Please! I beg you!” He shouted, his heart racing enough to burst out of his chest. “Let her go!”
“Geez, so annoying. Where’s your pride as an adventurer?” The man in suit retorted as Raika kept struggling to break free, but her dainty hands weren’t enough to release herself from the muscleman’s powerful grip on her ear.
“Do you understand, little bunny girl?” The man in suit gripped harder, making her wince in pain. “We can do this in two ways. You either come with us, or—”
In the middle of his sentence, in amidst of his cries, Kuki suddenly turned silent. He felt something cold pressed against the back of his head, suddenly hearing the click of the barrel. He knew this sound better than anyone else here.
The machoman holding him down was pressing a firearm against his head, a smile creeping along his stout face. Kudo’s heart ran cold, his eyes widening and irises shrinking, knowing that this was it.
“—You work alone from now on.”
Raika shrieked, but nobody outside the alleyways heard it from their position.
“Get it now, bunny girl?” The man repeated. “It’s time to make a grownup decision,” He said as he forced Raika to face Kui, her tears running down and wetting his latex gloves.
“Rai! Rai, forget about me!” Kui suggested, widening Raika’s eyes. “You gotta live!”
“I… I can’t do that, Kui!!”
Raika wailed after hearing Kuki’s desperate plea, her body shook from the course of the events flowing through. Her heart felt wretched—either lose herself in the darkness, or lose her friend forever.
She knew which decision to make, but even after making that choice—
—Raika and Kuki will never see each other again.
“…I…” Raika whispered.
The man waited for her response, knowing exactly what she will say which gave him great elation.
“Raika!” Using her full name, Kuki struggled from the machoman’s grip as he knew exactly what she was about to say. The man holding him down was actually having difficulty as he gritted his teeth in frustration.
“Y-You little…” No longer caring to hear the answer, the man was ready to pull the trigger—
—But he was quickly launched into the air.
Suddenly freed from his weight, Kuki raised his head, his mind allowing him to see only in slow motion from the pressure. The man flew away from a massive force, the huge fist mark plastered on his right cheek completely obvious to his eyes.
The man flew like a ragdoll and landed on the ground, his body contorted multiple times on the ground before finally crashing to nearby trash cans which crushed them.
Kuki, Raika, and the two men were left stunned at exactly what just happened. Kuki felt the presence of someone else behind him, and looked behind.
A fist stretched out from him, the azure-haired adventurer retracted it, still shaking from the adrenaline coursing through his veins.
“W-Who are you?!” The man in suit shouted but quickly shot a deadly look at the machoman near him. The last machoman nodded and lets go of Raika’s ear, finally releasing her which she used this chance without hesitation to run towards Kuki.
Both Kuki and Raika saw Kudo being confronted by the big man, clenching his meaty fist and launched it right at him.
The machoman believed that his fist was aiming right at his cheek, but that cheek quickly disappeared. Widening his eyes, he believed that the blue-hair just disappeared.
Unbeknownst to him, Kudo only bended down in fast succession, his head near the machoman’s torso. He extended his arms around and grabbed it, squeezing it tight between his arms.
In the next moment, the machoman’s feet were lifted off the dirt, and was dragged overhead of Kudo. Using the momentum, Kudo roared as he launched the man over himself into the very same wall that Kuki was smashed into. The building near it nearly shook from the massive force, the machoman lost all color in his eyes as he planted face first in the corner.
Letting out a whimper, a sweat trickled down the man in suit’s temple as Raika and Kuki were left gaping.
Kudo raised himself up, the available sunlight flashing down on him from the opening of the clouds, his frontal side darkened, but his eyes were the only ones showing its brilliant jade color.
“I was going to resolve this peacefully…” Kudo finally spoke. “But when I heard that Raika was forced to work in a brothel, or else Kuki would get killed…”
His tone of voice darkened, his expression contorted into something else. Something that the man in suit believed has transformed into an entirely new being.
“That’s when I lost all desire for peace.”
Kudo raised his face, showing his slanted eyes and a deep scowl, a facial expression that neither Kuki nor Raika has ever seen before.
The innocent looking boy who was so gentle that it seemed divine has transformed into a raging demon-like adventurer. But for Kuki and Raika, they were left in total awe.
“W-What are you…?! Do you know who I am?! I am Joerno, part of the elite of the Knight Touch!” Proclaiming himself, Joerno exclaimed. “I-I’ll tell all the boys about this! If you mess with me, there’s hell to pay!”
The reason Joerno here is in such a panic is because the two adventurers who were accompanying him in his solicitation were already above 200—in their second Class-Up. A young boy, who should be at least level 100, should never have been able to get so high up as to take down two so easily.
But what he hasn’t realized, nor did Kuki and Raika, was that Kudo has been diligently training his skills, and more importantly, his core stats, throughout this entire time. Not to mention, thanks to his nightly training, his level has risen to the point of shocking Kuki and Raika if they ask him to show them his level.
In other words, the two men did not have a chance with their basic training compared to Kudo who went through so much hell that would break a man’s spirit.
“Likewise,” Kudo responded to his panicked shouts. “If you mess with my party members, there’s hell to pay.”
Repeating his words, but in a much darker tone of voice, the man quivered as he fell to his rump, backing away from him before his back hits against the wall, a squeal escaped from his mouth as he looked at the monstrosity before him.
Because he went down on the ground, Joerno noticed the mark on his left hand, which the front of the glove was ripped thanks to the punch earlier, as it clenched into a fist, muscles tightening to the extent. Joerno’s eyes widened after knowing the mark more than anybody, where his superios constantly told him to ‘never mess with in your life’.
“Y-You can’t be…” His voice squealed as he pointed at the mark. “Y-You can’t be part of that guild… the Alpha Heart?!”
Hearing those words, Kuki and Raika dropped their jaws. They turned back to Kudo whose eyes were still glaring at the small man.
“W-W-Wait! Wait! P-Please… have mercy! We didn’t know that you were friends with them! L-Look, just forget about the—!”
Before he could finish his words, his face met an unexpected force of an object thrown at him. “Gah!” He grunted, feeling the pang of pain on his nose as the bag dropped down to his crotch.
His eyes opening up quickly upon hearing the sound of coins jingling, and saw the brown cloth bag which inside held various jib coins cluttered together. His eyes quickly widened as he picked up the jib coin, a 5000-jib coin that was completely legit.
He looked up to the boy, his inventory screen out in the open before Kudo closed it down.
“Here’s their debt, and their ‘interest’…”
Kudo spoke in a grim manner, his eyes devoid of any light as he stared down at the man. Joerno knew instantly that the amount in the bag was enough to settle their debt completely, even with the false interest.
“And… here’s your premium.”
With the bag of money up near his face, he didn’t see the flying fist that flew to the bag and onto his visage.
Away from there, the citizens finally heard an unsettling sound of something important breaking into pieces…
Joerno bleeding away at the corner of the wall, the dozens of markings of small circles plastered on his face, Kudo turned back to his comrades, ran up to them, and dropped to his knees.
“Are you alright, Kuki? Here, take a potion!”
His earlier demanding intimidation has vanished—his green eyes returning to their natural state as he took out a potion from his inventory screen.
Kuki and Raika were at a loss of what has just transpired. Without expressing emotion, Kuki took the bottle with his widened stare and drank it, the bitter contents pouring down his throat stung the cuts within his mouth, but it refreshed his body and recovered his [HP], hs wounds slowly disappearing.
“K-Kudo, how did you managed to find us at all…?”
Raika was more surprised about how he did so on his own, and at such an ungodly timing.
“Ah, I used my skill, Sixth Sense, to find you. The moment I lost you guys, I searched out for you because I thought it was strange that you would just leave like that.”
Hearing his reply with a bright smile on his face, Raika could no longer bear anymore. Her tears spilling out from earlier returned, but this time, they weren’t of despair, but of happiness.
“K-Kudo… I… K-Kui… we almost…”
Her loud cries resounded as she tried to make a sentence from her stuttering, wiping away her eyes at every chance she gets. She would no longer make that terrible decision anymore.
Kuki, however, felt guilty. He was happy beyond reason that Raika was safe, but it was done so by Kudo acting on his kindness again to them. Knowing that Kudo has given up millions of Jib for them, he no longer has any words that would prove how grateful he was to him.
Kudo could tell that from both their expressions. However, the danger was not over yet. There was still one more objective he needed to complete.
“Guys… I’ve decided.”
The moment he said those words, Kuki and Raika raised their heads, their eyes still welling up tears as they anticipated his answer with bated breaths.
Kudo raised himself to his feet, his jade eyes furrowing.
“We’re going to the Alpha Heart guildbase.”