Hour Empty Child
“K-K-Kudo, we can’t enter into this kind of place!”
“A-Are you serious about this, Kudo?!”
Kuki and Raika pleaded with their confused and panicked looks on their faces as they stood behind Kudo in front of the domineering Alpha Heart Guild base.
Once they heard from Kudo that they were heading to the guild base, each of them tried to persuade Kudo to stop, however, Kudo was resilient and dragged the two all the way until they reached their goal.
“…Guys, whatever you do, don’t make any sudden movements.”
Kudo felt that he should warn them, still facing the entrance doors with furrowed eyes. The two behind him shivered in response.
“A-Are they that scary?” Raika stuttered as she asked.
“…Just don’t do anything crazy.”
Kudo had no words to comfort her, so he only warned her including Kuki. The color of Raika’s face was drained away, her pupils dilating as she felt dizzy from the pressure.
“Kuki, whatever you do, don’t lash out, okay?”
“G-G-Got it, Boss.”
Kuki nodded with vigor, knowing that he only had the two’s interests at heart.
Feeling confident in their battle plan, Kudo ordered. “…Let’s go.”
Hearing their direct order from their party leader, the two shared a simultaneous gulp before huddling next to Kudo’s back for protection. Kudo pushed the doors open, revealing themselves.
The doors made a loud bang on the walls which caught the attention of everyone inside. The TV sounds were still on, but the usual roughhousing that he saw before have temporarily ceased as each adventurer inside took a look at the ones responsible for the bang.
They saw Kudo moving forward, his companions following suit like chicks to their mother. Kudo’s back was straightened, a furrowed look in his eyes as he moved towards to the inner hall. Though, nothing could be said about his friends’ expressions, completely devoid of any bravery Kudo was displaying.
“Ah! It’s the Master’s kid!”
“On his own?!”
Their shouts resounded, full of shock and surprise that filled the hall. Each one stared at the kids while some others, behind their backs, handed money over to another—some looking defeated and some showing satisfaction. Kudo pretended that he never saw that and faced the crowd before him.
It was then that he saw someone that drained the courage out of his body like water in a sink. Stepping into his view, he spotted the same cat beastman that made him ran out of here like a frightened child. He walked with a gait, his hands in his pockets as he had that same scowl as before. It was as if it was a repeat of what happened those few weeks ago.
He bared his fangs, his tail coiled left and right as if it was trying to intimidate him. Kudo’s brow became wet with his sweat as he sees Fitty walking up to him.
“…Hey, what the hell?” Fitty asked with a low grumbling tone as if Kudo has wronged him. What did he do this time?
“What, what, what the hell are you doing, bringing these damn kids into our hall?!”
Just like he believed, Fitty began to scream at something that was fairly obvious. His voice shrilled in their ears, grating them as Kudo forced himself to remain dauntless, but his comrades were now visibly shaking from the frightening beastman.
Fitty’s face huddled closely to Kudo who kept his determined expression on at all times, his teeth gritting in anxiety behind closed lips. He has to stay strong, or else he won’t ever set foot in here again due to fear, and his friends would be in danger.
Before Kudo could even answer, a swift strike landed right on the back of Fitty’s head, his ears sprang up in shock and his eyes nearly popping out of his skull. ‘Dooh!’ was let out of him like a squeak from a toy.
He fell over and huddled his body together and began some kind of dance move on the floor as he rubbed the large bump on his head. Kudo, Kuki, and Raika were in shock at the cat beastman on the floor, and most importantly, the one who delivered the finishing blow.
It was none other than the guildmaster of the Alpha Heart, the woman known across the entire Lerabelum continent as the one who held the title of the strongest adventurer, Hikari Valkyria. With her fist clenched tight, smoke stemming from the impact, near her face, Hikari looked down with her piercing stare onto the children, a solemn look on her face.
Kuki and Raika were star-struck, their eyes widening and glistening in sparkles from seeing her for the first time, up close and personal. As the rumors told and just as she was on TV, Hikari Valkyria did not only uphold divine beauty that no modeler could ever hope to match up to, she exuded a powerful aura that seemed to be invincible—completely overwhelming their meager existences with just her very presence.
These two felt the sudden surge of tingling down their spines just from her furrowing glassy stare.
Hikari shifted her sight on Kudo, and Kudo looked up to Hikari. The two shared a dynamic look with each other that not only made the two StormPlus members feel the pressure, but even the Alpha Heart members as well…
Hikari’s expression changed to that of an excited silly smile. She outstretched her hands and hugged Kudo entirely, leaving him no room to breathe from her overwhelming strength.
Kuki and Raika, standing away from this phenomenon, were left with gaping mouths after seeing the sudden shift in atmosphere.
“Kudo! You’re here! Like you said! Oh, I’m so glad that you came back! I’m sorry that Fitty scared you away, but don’t worry! Mommy’s here to protect you!”
Hikari snuggled up to Kudo’s face with her own, rubbing it up and down as her face showed a silly expression that showcased her joyful manner, leaving Kudo’s skin color to show a light blue.
The two were left amazed at this behavior from the one who was called an all-powerful adventurer that could even outlast against the highest order of Knights. Her strength alone is able to slice the moon in half if she so desires. From all these rumors that circulated around her, seeing her so excited over her son visiting the guild left a daunting impression.
And then it finally hit them.
“…Wait,” Kuki uttered. “Did she say ‘Mommy’…?”
Kuki finally started to stick the pieces together, and along with Raika, the two’s expressions slowly widened after each second, the reality was finally descending down upon them.
“T-Then that means…” Raika uttered out, her long ears twitching in disbelief as their bodies were visibly shaking in awe.
“ “You’re Hikari Valkyria’s child?!” ”
When Kudo heard that, he managed to turn his head while still squeezed by Hikari’s motherly hug, and faced the two.
He gave an awkward grin that expressed more words than his mouth could ever say.
The two remained still like statues. Their expressions were also stiff, barely making their muscles twitch from this shock. No amount of information that they have learned in their lifetime could ever hope to be as shocking as this one.
“…Yeah, that surprised me too.”
Kudo managed to speak out after seeing their response, putting a half-lidded look in his eyes as he was nearing his limit on oxygen.
“S-So then...” Kuki was able to release himself from his shocked trance. “All that time, when your ‘mommy’ called you, that was…?”
He asked, but he already knew the answer to that question.
“N-Now that I see it, I thought it was strange how you keep reminding me of Hikari Valkyria. I always thought it was because Kudo was a bit handsome…”
Raika let out her inner thoughts without knowing it. A faint blush appeared on Kudo’s cheeks after hearing that sudden compliment.
“N-Now that you mention it… that blue hair and those green eyes… they all practically scream ‘Valkyria’!”
Kuki pointed it out with his finger, his body still stiff from the sudden flood of information overloading his brain.
“So then,” After getting her fill of her son, Hikari finally lets go of Kudo who was finally released from her grasp. His knees buckled and fell to the floor, breating back in his air. “It looked like you came here for something important. Let’s talk about it in my office.”
Hikari said as she folded her arms, facing the three as they straightened themselves up and replied with a single large nod.
Hikari led the three into the hallways of the guildbase, seeing the extravagant hallways decorated with the finest hand-made tapestries that bared the mark of their guild. Walking through these white-colored walls, they saw a single door at the end that was so luxurious, it’s not even questionable that it was Hikari’s room.
They pushed open the well-detailed wooden door to see the room where only the Guildmaster can call it her own. A wide rounded room where glass windows laid at the back of the room shedding sunlight to the room. The ventilation in the room, however, made it pleasantly cool and not too cold for them to shiver. An intoxicating scent of lavender drove the minds of the children into ecstasy. Colored in calming beige, the room was filled with antiquities from various nations of the world in lavish shelves, a single portrait of a legendary adventurer known in many fairy tales, and finally, there was a single large curved table with its own small screen situated near the large soft seat that could be mistaken as a throne.
Hikari went over and sat on her chair, resting her elbows on the glossy exterior of the finely crafted desk, its elegant wooden carvings at the front marking the authenticity of a master designer to brighten up like a firework.
Hikari notioned the three to sit at the various chairs around the room, each one that was extremely comfortable to sit on which showed from the look on their faces. However, they were not alone. Along with them were the other members, particularly Kasara, the vice guild master, and her husband and vassal, Kagero. Paragon, or Par, the renowned Blacksmith who stayed at the back, and shockingly, Fitty was there as well.
“Now then,” Hikari started as she lowered her hands. “Tell me, what’s been happening?”
Kudo looked at the two sitting beside him, and gathered his courage to explain.
He told everything that happened today, concerning the adventurers that were soliciting his party members.
“I see… the Knight Touch, huh?” Hikari rubbed her chin, a classic notion that Kudo frequently uses, as she recalls the very name from the vast reaches of her memory.
“If I remember correctly, isn’t it that guild that was filled with former knights?” Kasara asked after recalling their preferences.
“That’s right. It looks like they fell on hard times since Knights have been coming in less and less through the months, and it looks like they were losing their members once they gain their nobility status back.”
“Then,” Kagero continued. “They were running out of money to pay their guild fees, so they’re resorting to soliciting younger adventurers by baiting them with loans, and then turn them into cash cows by forcing them to work for free under their bogus ‘interest’.”
A look of scorn appeared on his face before he switched back to his relaxed expression.
“Those guys are nothing but scumbags,” Par commented, then a prideful smile took place. “But it looks like Kudo here took care of them pretty quickly! I changed my opinion on you, Master’s Boy!”
Kudo felt that the way she pronounced that as it if was a play on words for ‘Mommy’s Boy’, but he pretended that he never thought of that.
“Mmh, mmh,” Hikari nodded. “That’s right. My son is the best around. He could not let his own party members be taken advantage due to their naiveté. That’s my son~”
The way Hikari praised him caused Kudo to redden up. He felt more embarrassed when she spoke such praises in front of his friends.
Though, Kuki and Raika were too stunned to even care about that now. Raika showed her anxiety by trembling, trying to remain composed rather instead of freaking out. Kuki was the same, apparently, as he tried to put on a poker face, but the corners of his lips twitched constantly.
“Then,” Hikari continued. “In order to ensure their safety in case those Knight Touch guys want some payback, you want these two to join the guild… is that correct, Kudo?”
Hikari now answered to Kudo like a proper guild master—this was the feeling Kudo was receiving from her piercing glare. His heart raced as he felt that even though he was her son, she wouldn’t be so willing to bend the rules just for his sake.
He knew this very well, but he has to go all out, possibly even receive punishment in doing so, if he wants to give Kuki and Raika a future even if they were left alone.
Hikari conjoined her fingers together, closing her eyes. For a single second, the cold air became still and hard to breath, silence taking over the room. Kuki and Raika felt the tension cutting them like a knife as if they were standing on trial for a serious crime. Even Kudo couldn’t handle the tension as his hands clutched on his knees shook.
Then, in the next second, her eyes opened, ready to answer.
“That’s great! It’s obvious that they can be a part of us!”
Kudo, Kuki, and Raika nearly fell over from their chairs, the heavy weight on their souls was completely pointless.
“Wait! Hold on, Master!” Catching Kudo off guard, Fitty suddenly shouted as he outstretched his hand, pointing his index finger at Hikari.
“Oh, what is it, Fitty?”
“My name’s Fitarous!”
As soon as Hikari called out his name, he instantly retorted by responding with his full name.
“N-Never mind that now!” He quickly went back on topic. “Master, you can’t just let anyone join like that! Look at these kids! They’re barely over level 100!”
Hearing his reason, Kudo’s chest tightened as he was right. Back in Peranim, being over 100 is enough to be called a legend, but in Roprase, that’s barely reaching the starting line. He figured that he went out of line by asking his personal connection to invite his friends in.
“And? What does level has anything to do with it?”
Fitty was taken aback by Hikari’s blunt question.
“T-That’s not the only case!” Fitty knew that he lost this one, so he went with the next topic. “What about our one rule for joining? They gotta have a Special Class—otherwise, they shouldn’t even be here!”
Everyone in the room, Kasara, Kagero, and Par, looked at each other, giving a look that said that he was right. Hikari herself changed her glassy stare, raising her right brow.
“He does have a point…” Hikari directed her words to Kudo. “Kudo, can you say for certain that these children have what we require?”
Hearing her question, Kudo felt resolute—he was waiting for that.
“Yes,” Kudo nodded. “Kuki has a class called Wind Soldier, and Raika has a class called Jolt Artisan. I can assure that both of these Classes are Special Classes.”
Kudo turned his head to the two, shooting them a look from his solemn eyes which caused them to react quickly, their temples sweating as they brought out their status menus. Each pushed them forward to Hikari which made her study them closely.
“…Oh, he’s right. I never heard of these classes before.”
Suddenly, a rise of ‘oohs’ filled the room, surprising Kudo from their surprised reactions.
“Master’s kid found himself not just one, but two Special Classes? That’s pretty lucky,” Par held her chin in joyous surprise as she praised him.
“Certainly, it’s not easy to find Special Classes anywhere, and to find two…” Kasara formed a mischievous smile. “Kudo, you’re quite lucky, aren’t you~?”
Somehow, Kasara’s words as she began to chuckle grimly made Kudo ‘s spine run cold, as if Kasara was calculating her plans to fully manipulate this new information in her mind, but he ignored that feeling for now.
“Whoo~ nice job, Kudo,” Kagero whistled, sounding surprised and impressed.
“Mmh, Special Classes, eh…” Hikari uttered with a slight elation. “Now that I think about it, where are you two from?”
Hearing her question, the two jumped in surprise now that her attention was on them, getting them to sweat profusely.
“W-We’re both from Ariandel, ma’am!” Kuki responded as if he was a soldier on the front line.
“W-W-W-We came here after graduating from Adventurer’s school over there, ma’am!” Raika stuttered so much, she was close to biting her tongue.
“I see…” Hikari recalled the town’s features. “If I remember correctly, that city’s famous for its abundance in Special Class families.”
“B-But we’re not that strong compared to the others…”
“B-Be quiet, Rai!”
Hearing Raika’s downtrodden words, Kuki quickly chided her, but Hikari only smiled at them warmly, getting them to blush in embarrassment.
“That sounds perfect for the guild~”
“H-Hey!” Fitty instantly intervened, slamming his hands on her glossy desk. “Were you just going to invite them in even if they didn’t have Special Classes?!”
“Mmh? Of course I was. My son wanted to invite his friends—Why shouldn’t I?”
Hearing Hikari’s response that was supposedly natural to say, the four Alpha Heart members were left dumbstruck, contorting their faces into awkward expressions.
“I-I think that might be a bit too much, Master…” Kagero let out a wry laugh to go along with his wry smile.
“But in any case,” Hikari quickly continued. “Kudo brought in adventurers with a Special Class, so we’re in the clear! Kudo, please take them through the front desk to sign in—you remember the inauguration process, right?”
“Y-Yes,” Kudo nodded as he turned back at the two who were left silent. The attention shifting to them, Kuki and Raika jumped up from their chairs with haste and, surprisingly, bowed with their backs bending completely over.
“ “T-Thank you very much for letting us join!”
“Haha, don’t be so stiff! You’re part of us now—Enjoy yourselves!”
Hikari responding with a joyous tone, a beaming smile on her face which left the two childhood friends to redden like an apple. They realized now just where Kudo’s godlike smile came from.
Quickly soon after, Kuki and Raika followed Kudo out the room, their movements completely stiffened like moving statues who were just melted from ice.
After leaving the room, entering into the elegantly donned hallways, Kudo expunged his fatigued air out of his system.
“I’m sorry that you had to go through all that…”
He expected them to be completely bewildered at their current circumstances, but to his surprise, they showed a different reaction. Looks of apprehension were plastered in their eyes, barely able to face Kudo with them. Kuki’s fists shook while Raika’s shoulders did the same.
“Guys?” He asked, raising his brows in concern.
“Kudo…” Kuki was the first to speak. “This… everything… you did so much for us, even though we did nothing for you…”
Kuki gritted his teeth, but it wasn’t in anger. It was in frustration over his own uselessness.
Kuki was just about to lose his childhood friend, who has supported him despite making such selfish demands of her, to a group who he has contacted with on his own. But it was completely turned over when Kudo came to save them. Deep within his heart, he knew that there was no way of ever repaying for his kindness who have managed to get them out from the brink of despair.
“Kudo… do we really… deserve to be treated like this? We kept our debt a secret to you…”
Raika felt the same way. If she had made her decision, either way, she would have lost Kuki. Who’s to say that they would even keep their promise? Either she took the deal or not, it was possible that both choices would be made anyways. But Kudo gave her a third choice—to break free from all that, and even join a prestigious guild in return. It was so good that it was like a dream, and all the more she felt that she’s undeserving of such a dream.
Kudo didn’t need to have lots of experience in socialization to see their pained expressions. He could tell that these two were wrought with guilt. In truth, he didn’t really much think about their feelings when he decided to take care of them.
It was then that he had to make a choice—to either tell them the truth, or to let them feel guilty for no reason. It was clear to him now what choice to make.
“Guys…” Kudo began to feel hesitant, but forced to move his mouth to relay his feelings.
Kuki and Raika looked up, their faces reddening from shame and embarrassment, to hear what he has to say.
“…It’s kinda difficult for me to say this. But the truth is… I’m lonely.”
Kudo felt so embarrassed that he wanted to hide himself with his hands, his face reddening like a boiling teapot.
“E-Eh?” Raika tilted her head. “Lonely…?”
“Y-Yeah… The reason being is… that ever since I moved in here, I felt really lonely.”
Kudo remembered the emotions he felt when he was dragged here by Hikari. Ever since then, it was nothing but new experiences that he never expected to see or hear, his life completely changed after that. It was enough to rattle anyone’s brain, but for Kudo, it was too much on a psychological level.
“I… lost a lot of things,” Kudo kept gazing at the floor. “I separated with my best friend due to her circumstances. It was… really difficult.”
Hearing him, Kuki and Raika’s breaths were taken away. They never expected to hear such depressing story from Kudo of all people.
“So… when you guys told me to train you, you both reminded me of her, and ever since then, it was really fun. I was always an introvert, so being with everyone here was really difficult… it was like they were in another world, so I felt even lonelier.”
Kudo lifted his hand and began to hold onto his arm. He felt so awkward, he wondered if he should even mention this at all.
“I’m sorry that I made you think that you needed to pay me back… I just didn’t know how to explain that I really didn’t needed anything because both of you were already helping me.”
They weren’t able to say anything. With their jaws left hanging, they kept hearing the words surging from his heart. Having enough, Kudo raised his head, his face still blushing like mad.
“So…! That’s the thing. I just wanted company all this time. If you still have trouble with the money, then don’t worry about it. Soon enough, we will grind up more money than the debt you guys had. So… well… I really don’t want anything of value.”
If he was a merchant, then he would surely failed. He wasn’t good at hiding his true intentions with clever words, so he had to say it from the bottom of his heart.
Kuki and Raika knew very well that he was telling the whole truth.
“…So, do you guys… still want to be in a party with me?”
This time he faced them, his heart racing from the possible rejection now that they knew his real intentions.
The two gave a glance at each other, then turned to Kudo, wearing a smile.
“Hell yeah!” Kuki clenched his fist as he smirked.
“We definitely will!” Raika’s long furry ears twitched in accordance to her joy.
Kudo was taken aback at how willingly they were to accept. His jade eyes widened and began to gleam, forming a smile.
“Oh, thank goodness… I thought you guys would think that I was creepy or something…”
“Why would we think that would be creepy? It was really sweet!” Raika praised as her face showed a faint blush while her shoulders began to squirm from it.
“I can’t really say anything bad about that. I mean, just wanting to have friends… it’s not a sin to feel like that.”
Kuki brushed his head as he felt more connected with Kudo more than he thought.
“And I can’t believe that you get nervous too… it’s no wonder why Rai likes hanging out with you.”
“W-What do you mean by that, Kui!?” Raika turned back, her face blushing more than usual as Kuki smirked.
“Rai here doesn’t get close to anyone so quickly like you did! I always thought you were special, but who would have thought that you would be the same as Rai?”
“K-Kui!!” Raika swung her arms at him, her dainty hands forming fists to stop him from speaking, but she hits so softly that they were like pats instead of punches.
Kudo made a wry laugh after seeing their spectacle, but then, in the corner of his eye, he sees the cat beastman walking forward to them. Kudo stiffened his posture which got the two to notice quickly, and straightened themselves up.
“…” Fitty didn’t respond after seeing the three pay attention to him. It made the atmosphere around them silent.
“…Umm… is there something wrong?” Kudo asked, seeing that Fitty was mostly staring at him.
“…Hah… I’m sorry.”
Kudo’s eyes popped out after seeing Fitty sigh and apologize. Even Kuki and Raika were left shocked after seeing a complete 180-turn on his personality.
“E-Eh?” He let out an expected response.
“Like I said! I’m sorry for scaring you, okay!?”
However, his next response was as expected as he lashed out at the three, making them jump in surprise as Kuki and Raika huddled behind Kudo for protection.
“I didn’t mean to scare you!” Fitty continued, forming fists as he scowled. “That’s how I treat everyone! It doesn’t mean that I hate you specifically! You’re Master’s kid, so I figured that you had a backbone! But you’re not half-bad, so you can be proud of that!”
His furrowed eyes directed at him, Kudo heard every word and was left puzzled.
“T-Then… you don’t hate me?” Kudo managed to figure it out and asked.
“Do I have a reason to hate you?!”
Once again he lashed out, but Kudo knew his intentions this time.
Everyone in the world is different from one another. It’s not strange to see people that acts completely different from the norm. He should have known this from being friends with Hinota.
“I-I see…” Kudo understood a little now. “T-Then, I’m sorry for avoiding you all. It was just so much for me that I…”
“Don’t even say it!” Fitty stopped him from speaking. “I already heard everything from the Master! It…” Suddenly, Fitty quieted down as he brushed his furry ears. “I didn’t think you had it that tough. So… I’m sorry.”
Kudo figured that he must have heard about what happened to him in Vipory. Feeling awkward about it, he sees Fitty facing the two behind him, leaving the two to jump in surprise.
“…If you guys are joining, then let me get one thing straight.”
Fitty furrowed his eyes, but rather than his scowl, he put on a determined expression.
“Everyone here is their own alpha. Just because I was here longer than you, it doesn’t mean that you are under me. Of course, I don’t mind helping you since I’m more experienced. No matter what happens, we’re a family. That’s what being an Alpha Heart is all about.”
Kuki and Raika moved out of their hiding spot, their faces left awe-struck. Seeing him acting so serious, Kudo realized that he was more than just an angry beastman.
He’s someone that really cares for the guild, enough to doubt the master’s choices so that the guild doesn’t fall from its high reputation. That’s how dedicated he was.
“…So, let me be the first to say… welcome to Alpha Heart.”
Without facing the three, Fitty left them behind as he walked past them, his hands deep within his pockets and a sour look on his face. Behind Fitty, Par came out of the office, apparently hearing everything from the other side.
“…That’s how it is, kids. Think nothing of it and just be yourselves~”
Par gave a silly smile in response as she walked towards to where Fitty went. Kudo looked back and saw Par swinging her arm over to Fitty, causing him to react with an annoyed look while Par grinned like a fool.
Kudo then faced Kuki and Raika, each one sharing a smile and, as if they have synchronized, felt passionate about all of this.
About being an Alpha Heart.
“…Then, how about we go ahead and join up?” Kudo responded which made the two nod.
“Let’s do it!”
“We’re with you!”
Hearing their positive reactions, Kudo led the two to the main hall, where they once again met the other members who got excited to see them.
From then on, Kuki Windrow and Raika Eledad have both officially become Alpha Heart members.