Hour Empty Child
Hello, everyone! I know I don't usually do this, but I just wanted to say that this is finally the publication of the novel! It sure took a while, especially since I was writing it during the disaster. Of course, I came out fine, and will soon move out of Puerto Rico to Pennsylvania to live with my brother. Hopefully, I can find the time to keep working on the novel as I work.
Either way, I'm making sure that I'm publishing this as soon as possible before then, because it might be difficult to do so afterwards. So expect this pop up only here and enjoy reading the whole novel!
It was a new day, and all was supposed to be well in the morning…
Well, it was supposed to be. The moment Kudo shed open his eyes, he heard the pleasant yet disturbing melody of harmonious water hitting against the window. Unpleasantness filling him, Kudo lifts himself off his bed with a stern expression and gazed at the window, which there was no refreshing sunlight—only dozens of small trails of water cascading down the glass as if they were racing each other to the finish line.
Though it wasn’t as bad since it wasn’t a lightning storm, Kudo’s expression did not change—rather, it contorted into dissatisfaction.
“...Great, so it rains here too.”
Kudo knew that saying those words wouldn’t make any sense for those hearing it since it was a natural phenomenon, but he couldn’t care less about it. He hated the rain—it meant that he could no longer go out and train without it impeding on his battles.
Even more so, he just didn’t like the rain at all, especially after what happened in Vipory. He grew even more hateful towards this weather as he lay on his bed again to try to take it off his mind.
“Hah…” Kudo’s sigh escaped from his lips as another day of training was rescheduled due to bad weather. Then, he heard a small rumbling noise, surprising him as he directed his sight onto the cause of it. It was his Mana phone that was vibrating by itself on the small table, causing it to shake in short intervals. Kudo got up from his bed and grabbed the phone, feeling it vibrate within his hand.
He knew that it was a call, but when he looked at the screen, a sense of confusion overwhelmed him.
He phrased it awkwardly, tilting his head from the strange word that he could not comprehend. The phone vibrated again, ushering him to answer it. Becoming panicked, he notices the name under the strange word and recognized it instantly.
“Raika…!” Knowing the recipient, he pressed the ‘accept’ button on the screen. Then, the screen turned black.
After a while, the screen suddenly brightened up, and soon, from the phone, it looked like it was capturing the image of another room. It wasn’t as extravagant as his room, but it was fairly decent enough as it was well furnished, having fuchsia walls and an abstract painting at the background. The screen moved about, letting Kudo see more of the room as if he was in there himself.
Then, he spotted two long furry ears with zig-zag patterns resembling lightning bolts, both twitching erratically.
[D-D-Did it work?! K-Kudo! I-I’m sorry to bother you! Can you hear me?!]
[Dumbass! He’s supposed to see you!]
[A-Aaah… That’s right! I hope I look nice…]
He heard the voices in the background, their tone of voice and response all too familiar in Kudo’s ears.
“Guys! Are you there?”
The screen moved as soon as Kudo replied, revealing the two adventurers that he has been with for the past 3 months.
[Ah, it worked! I can see Kudo!] Raika answered as the screen showed that she was holding the phone in her hands with Kuki right beside her. Her ears twitched up and down as a bright smile took over her ecstatic face.
“H-How is this possible?” Kudo opened and closed his eyes in disbelief. “How can I see you through the phone?!”
He looked behind the phone to see if they could be seen at the back, but there was nothing but the plastic covering of the phone. He turned back to the screen and saw the two completely unfazed at his action.
By the way, Raika and Kuki got their own mana phones after joining the Alpha Heart. Hikari herself gave them so that they can speak to Kudo whenever he wants. Though Kudo rejected the purpose, he knew that them having the phone would be beneficial for the party.
[Right,] Kuki showed a face as if he realized something. [Kudo’s from Peranim, so he doesn’t know how video calls work.]
However, this caused Raika to show a bad reaction as she lifts her boot to communicate with his ribcage.
[Don’t say that! Gods, you’re always so insensitive to him, Kui!]
[T-That’s the truth, though…]
Kudo couldn’t help but make a smile at the two’s antics. Raika would usually admonish Kuki for saying the wrong things at the time, though Kudo didn’t take it as much of an offense.
After that, Raika explained in a simple manner to Kudo about how the video call works.
“I see… so the phone sees the other recipient through the lens on the phone. It uses the… ‘internet’ to connect with that lens, allowing you to see the other person. I get it.”
Thanks to Kasara’s lessons through the months, Kudo was able to absorb the knowledge without issue. Though, the concept of the ‘internet’ was still unfathomable to him. It made it even more confusing as Hikari forbade him to use the internet as she realized that it might be too damaging for his young mind.
[Right!] Raika nodded. [Now we can talk to each other while seeing each other’s faces. This way, it’s like having a real conversation! And… it helps for me since I get really nervous when talking on the phone…]
Thanks to the video, Kudo could see Raika’s cheeks becoming red.
“You’re right, this does feel more natural.”
Kudo realized that this was another step forward to communication, though, it was still hard to believe for someone like him who lived in a simplistic medieval-like environment.
[So, Kudo,] Kuki recovered from Raika’s blow and returned to the screen. [What are we gonna do? Do we still move out?]
Hearing Kuki’s suggestion, Kudo was reluctantly reminded that the rain was still pouring down outside.
“No way,” Kudo begrudgingly denied. “The stupid rain will get in the way, so for now, we can just stay inside.”
[Kudo, you sound like you don’t like the rain much,] Raika made an understanding smile as she learned another part of him.
“…I never liked the rain.”
Kudo put on a stern expression, his tone turned heavy, but fortunately for him, it didn’t seem to be picked up by the two over the phone.
[Eh, figured you would like the rain,] Kuki commented in surprise which Kudo denied by shaking his head.
“Anyways,” Kudo’s tone quickly recovers as he switched topics. “Come on over to my home—we can start training our core stats and talk about what to do next.”
[Ooh, that sounds good,] Kuki smirked, looking forward to it.
[Wah… that sounds hard…] Raika felt queasy, thinking about the hardcore training again.
[Grow a backbone, Rai! Think about it this way—you’ll get to lose more weight.]
[D-D-Don’t say that kind of stuff in front of Kudo, you jerk!]
Raika, her face burning up like a stove, magnificently delivered a corkscrew punch right into his gut with strength that didn’t fit her dainty figure. Kuki’s eyes popped out in pure shock before his body fell over, leaving the screen but somehow made it shake upon his landing. Kudo couldn’t hold in his chuckling after hearing something he shouldn’t have.
After explaining the plan over to them, the dark elf maid came in to give her greeting to him as always. Kudo used this chance to ask her to bring his friends over with their Ame, making her gladly accept it.
About 30 minutes later, Kudo heard the roaring sounds of the engine driving by outside his window, signifying that they have arrived. Kudo put on his comfort clothing, a simple black sleeveless shirt and pants, as he heads off to the entrance hall to see them.
Once he arrived, the door opened in time for him to come in, revealing Chui who bowed by the door.
“Welcome to the Valkyria estate, Master Kuki, Master Raika,” Chui responded with a graceful tone, a smile that would knock the socks of every person around.
“T-Thanks for having us!” Kuki shouted out.
“P-Please excuse our intrusion…” Raika excused themselves.
Their expressions seem stiff as they bowed their heads to the professional maid. They head inside, meekly saying their greetings.
“Hey, guys!” Kudo waved at them. “Let’s get started.”
Without a moment to lose, Kudo brought his disciples to the training room and made Kuki and Raika train themselves to their very limits. Not even the bad weather can help them escape from the grueling discipline Kudo has put them through.
Inside the very training room, Kuki and Raika wore their usual gear for raising their bodies’ limits—For Kuki, he wore a white sleeveless shirt with long gray yoga pants. As for Raika, she had a gray tanktop with black shorts for easier movement.
Kuki’s training involved doing cardio workout as he needed to raise his stamina in order to outrun faster monsters. While for Raika, it was basic exercise such as push-ups and sit-ups to provide maintenance to her body for any and all situations an archer like her would possibly go through.
Kudo often helps Raika with her sit-ups by putting his weight down on her feet with his hands, and offering a source of inspiration for all the horrific training:
“Raika, for every sit-up you make, that’s one second of staying alive. Go for the sit-ups! Go for those extra seconds!”
Using her very life as a motivator, Raika repeated the process of bending her abdomen over and over, ignoring the burning agony within her belly.
“Gaah! The burn!”
“Feel the burn, Raika!”
The two often shared passionate and somewhat painful cries, Raika’s furry ears twitching in pain and her eyes watering up.
Meanwhile, Kuki had already finished his training regimen and sat down at the end of the treadmill to rest. He watched the scene with his towel over his neck and a bottle of water in his hand with a glazed look in his eyes.
“This is insane…” Kuki commented about Kudo’s training methods.
When they finished their hardcore training, the StormPlus had a nice morning cleanse in the Valkyria mansion’s most proudest room—the bath. Within the bath, Kuki and Kudo enjoyed their quick bath and soon Raika came in after they finished.
Sometime later, Raika walked out of the bath, her body refreshed and revitalized after her strenuous task of keeping her body fit. It was a long walk before she came across to Kudo’s room, their meeting place for when they make their plans.
She turned the knob and pass through the door into the glamorous room where the cold ventilation made her body colder after being in a warm bath. Quickly getting used to it, Raika was still amazed at how the room looked as similar as a hall from its vast size. She then noticed Kudo and Kuki in the corner of her eye sitting on the large bed and chair respectively.
“Oh, Raika, you had a nice bath?” Kudo asked as soon as Raika entered the room.
“Yeah!” Raika’s refreshing smile came alive. “It was so good! And so big!”
“Haha, it’s hard to get used to it, but it does feel nice.”
Kudo scratched his cheek in embarrassment from Raika’s praise, though it would have made his mother feel complimented.
Raika took a chair near the table and dragged it across to their side, eventually sitting down on it with her legs pressed together.
“Alright,” Kudo immediately began his topic as soon as Raika came in. “Today was a letdown because of the rain, but that won’t stop us from heading out tomorrow to take our first C-Rank quest. You guys are prepared, right?”
Kudo, Raika, and Kuki have all become C-Rank adventurers during their three months together. They have gained some recognition within the city, and the Alpha Heart members were also impressed by their quick progress.
“Yeah, I got everything ready! Bullets, extra guns in case one break, and plenty of potions!”
Kuki raised his hand with an excited grin to report his condition. Kudo nodded in agreement before turning towards to Raika.
“I got everything ready too,” Raika admitted, but then placed a finger to her chin, making a curious face. “But, what kind of quest are we taking again?”
Kudo explained that their quest is to hunt down the increasing numbers of Heliwraths—dinosaur-like reptiles that have invaded a small settlement that belonged to a nomad colony in search of nourishment. The nomads managed to escape in time, but the numbers of Heliwraths were excessive, so they sent a quest to the Alpha Heart Guild to eliminate as much as possible to regain back their land.
“…And that’s how it is.”
“Ah, I see…” Raika nodded slowly, but a sense of terror could be felt from her expression. “T-They’re not dangerous, are they?”
“They’re fast,” Kudo lectured. “So if we don’t take them out quickly, they could catch up to us and bite our limbs off.”
Raika shrieked from just imagining the deadly outcome. Kuki saw this and sighed as he turned to Kudo.
“Well, we can still handle them, right?”
“Of course,” Kudo gave a strong nod. “You guys have improved a lot over these months—have faith in your abilities. I do!”
Kudo added in his opinion, and hearing his sincere cheer, Kuki and Raika shared a smile with each other as they felt invigorated from his words alone.
It has always been like that since they have become a party together. Kudo would often drive them to their very limits, but he does so because he cares for them and believes that they can become stronger. It’s because of this powerful trust in each other that the three have achieved a higher rank in such a short time.
Now that they had their plan in motion, since they have finished their training and the rain was still going outside, the three decided to have a day off in Kudo’s room. They started to watch the large TV and put on ecstatic faces as Kuki and Raika were never used to seeing such a big TV screen before.
The TV screen showed a program about the biology of monsters, which Kudo took fond of since it was related to his profession. It was then that a small creature showed up, its furriness and captivating eyes made an impression on the young maiden.
“Ahh, it’s so cute~” Raika squealed as soon as the small creature came up on screen. It was a small horned rabbit, known for their piercing attacks and high dexterity. Though, when not looked at as an enemy, it was rather cute in appearance, and was even told that the horned rabbit is a popular monster among young women.
It was then that Kudo was reminded from the furriness of the horned rabbit and realized something important.
“Oh yeah,” Kudo punched his palm with his fist in revelation. “Guys, I got myself a summoning skill.”
The first to react to Kudo’s sudden jolt in memory was Kuki himself.
“Eh? A summoning skill? Seriously?!” Asking a few times before becoming surprised, Kuki looked back with widened eyes.
“R-Really? W-What can you summon?” Raika was the second to follow, equally having a shocked expression.
“Ah, it’s a summoning skill,” Kudo brushed the back of his hair, but his tone suddenly dampens. “But it doesn’t really do anything. More like, I wonder if it does anything at all…”
“Then, show us! It’s not going to hurt us, right? Come on, show it to us!”
Kuki persisted as he and Raika looked up to Kudo’s face with gleaming eyes sparkling like gem dust.
“W-Well… If you really want to see it, then I’ll show him to you.”
Kudo was easily persuaded, feeling as if he was showing off a trick to his peers. Kuki turned off the TV and sat on the bed with Raika, both eyes fully attentive to Kudo as he stood in the center of the room, somehow feeling the pressure of their expectations.
“Then…” Kudo exhaled sharply. “Here I go!”
Kudo lifts his hand in the air, and channeled the mana into it: “——《Plus Summon》!”
His mana came into life as, above his hand, a large magic circle appeared, glowing a bright white light. Another magic circle appeared on the floor next to him, revealing the unusual runic inscriptions on the borders as it spun around.
It surprised Kuki and Raika as they both howled ‘Oooh!’, their mouths gaping open as the bright light consumed the room, their expectations raising higher through the limit.
The light was too bright so they covered their eyes for a moment, and once they felt the warm light die down, they opened their eyes and their vision slowly returns, revealing the creature that was summoned from another world.
The two were left wide-eyed and slacked jawed.
A small kitten that could be held by both hands with ease. Snow-white fur with crystalline jade eyes. A quadrupedal body with short paws, and to accentuate its mystery, he had a pentagonal-shaped metal plate on the top of his head between his two large ears, displaying the same class mark that showed on Kudo’s hand.
“Myaa~!” A high-pitched sweet cry was released from its small mouth, lifting his leg to scratch the side of his face.
Kuki was left with a blank expression. He expected something more… battle driven.
“I-Is this your summon?” He pointed as he asked. “What does it do?”
“I…” Kudo hesitated to answer. “I don’t… really know. Not even the skill explained to me what it does. I think it’s too low-leveled.”
“Then,” Kuki switched his glance to the kitten. “It’s useless, isn’t it?”
He made his blunt answer, but then his cheek met with Raika’s elbow, forcing him to fly out to the air before landing on the rug of the floor. His eyes swirled from the dazed pain he’s going through.
“Oh my god~~! It’s so cute~~~!”
Raika’s exuded such a pinkish aura, it made flowers blossom around her—she didn’t even realize that she hit Kuki with her elbow as she was trying to push him away and dashed straight to the kitten.
She slid on the ground on her front side until she met up with the kitten, her face near his as they both shared a look.
“Nyaaahh~ So cute!”
Responding to his call the same way, Raika’s face contorted into a silly smile, her ears twitching in response to her excitement. Her legs flew up and down as she scratches the kitten’s chest and chin with her fingers, making it close his eyes in pure bliss.
“K-Kuki, are you okay?”
Kudo saw the aftermath of Raika’s love for cute animals, seeing Kuki on the floor who has yet to awaken from his daze.