Hour Empty Child
The ame drove in leisure towards the capital, which upon reaching the massive gates that provided them entry into the city, left the party who has joined them to be in awe at the sight.
Once again getting back into the colorful atmosphere of the city, as the two looked out the window, Kudo glanced at Hinota who looked out in wonder. Her slanted eyes widened and her petite mouth gaping at the sight.
Seeing this image for the first time in a while was like a fresh breeze in a hot draught for Kudo, an ecstatic smile on his face.
“T-This is incredible, Kudo!” Hinota looked back, showing the same excited smile. “So you were living in here?”
“Yep,” Kudo answered gleefully. “It gets kinda overwhelming at first, but this place has everything you need.”
Looking back at the window, Hinota’s mind was already processing the kinds of items she would get being in this city. Then, a question arose from her mind.
“Where are we going?” Hinota looked back at him again.
“Mmh, we need to finish the quest, so we need to go back to the guild, but…”
“Ah, Master Kudo!” Through the small window on the wall that separated the driver’s seat from the passenger’s seats, Chui spoke up. “You can just leave the quest to me! I’ll bring back the reward for both of your parties!”
“I-Is that okay? I don’t want to bother you with such a thing…”
“Don’t worry about it!” Chui let out a haughty puff of air out of her nose. “Let this be my compensation for making you all wait! Master Kudo, you should spend time to hang out with your new friends!”
Saying those words got Kudo to redden his cheeks. Somehow he felt so childish when she said it like that.
“A-Alright. Thank you, Chui.”
“Please, think nothing of it, Master Kudo!” Responding with a bright smile, Chui went back to focus on her driving.
“Well, at least we got that covered, so now we can head on to the estate.”
Getting back to his friends, Kudo smiled. However, Hinota caught something in her hearing a word that she never expected Kudo to say.
Throughout the ride, Kudo left the topic in the air, despite that Hinota kept asking him about it for the next 2 minutes. Despite changing her question to his party members, Hinota could not get an answer from Raika nor Kuki as well.
Nearly losing her restraint, she was about to blow a gasket, only until finally—
Chui shouted through the window, leaving the three EarthFire members to look up ahead, and all three were left slack-jawed.
They saw the large pearly-white mansion from the distance and entered through the gates to drive through the large terrace that could be mistaken as a wondrous flower field up in the grassy hills. The beautiful cherry blossom trees which its petals scattered about in the gentle breeze created such an amazing sight that it left stunned expressions on the members’ faces. Those reactions were the reason why the StormPlus left the topic be.
“Pretty amazing, right?” Kudo asked, knowing that they were already amazed.
“S-So when you mean the estate, you really mean entire estate?” Hinota uttered out, her eyes were taken away by the majestic sight of the location.
“Yep,” Kudo chirped.
“S-So this mother of yours, Hikari Valkyria… she’s that incredible, huh?” Hinota was left in awe which got Kudo to figure something out from her tone.
“Did you hear about her?”
“I heard from Tsuchi and Mizuri. She seemed so unreal, I didn’t think she could actually exist. There’s so many outlandish things that she’s done that doesn’t seem like she’s human at all.”
“Yeah… I guess.”
Kudo answered in a dead-panned tone. ‘Is he alright?’ Hinota thought as she noticed his strange cringy look on his face for a short moment.
Once the Ame drove to the entrance of the mansion, Chui turned off the engines and got off the driver’s seat, going over to the passenger’s side to open their door.
“Welcome to the Valkyria estate! Please watch your step, and enjoy your stay!”
Chui chirped as she gave a quick bow to the passengers who got out of the Ame, the EarthFire with stiffened expressions while the StormPlus were already used to the scenery.
Kudo moved ahead of the group and, turning around, faced them with a gentle gaze.
“Let’s head inside.”
He smiled as he expected them to follow him as he went up to the loggia. Mizuri and Tsuchi approached the estate in tippy-toes to ensure that they don’t step into anything, especially the jewel-encrusted flooring used as the entrance.
“Come on, guys, it’s fine,” Hinota had to calm them down, otherwise they would reach the front door by nightfall.
Upon reaching the well-detailed, largely fancy doors, Kudo opened them up with a thrust of his hands, the doors seamlessly opened like a book, revealing a shining and luxurious surprise.
“ “ “Welcome back, my Masters.” ” ”
Women clad in black uniforms all spoke in unison, each lined up in rows as they greeted their visitors with an exemplary bow that spoke volumes of their grace.
Each of the different races was colorful and wondrous to their eyes. The fact that each maid, a beauty in their own right, is another matter of luxury.
The StormPlus were, at the least, used to this, but the Earthfire were left gaping. Mizuri and Tsuchi had their jaws hanging down to their necks, and Hinota was left in disbelief—in an entirely different manner.
Her body trembled as if she was going through a seizure. While she tried her best to keep it in, it was easy to spot that she was rattled to the bone.
“K-K-K-Kudo,” Hinota stuttered like a bird. “T-T-This is…”
She lifted her finger, albeit still trembling to the group of beautiful maids who still bowed to them, apparently enjoying their reactions in their own, snickering way.
“These girls…” Kudo became tongue-tied. “They’re servants that follow my mother. She… has a knack for beautiful women in maid’s clothing.”
It could be obviously seen that Kudo wasn’t fond of saying that, as shown by him rubbing the back of his head awkwardly.
However, deep inside Hinota’s recesses of her powerful mind, a disaster struck within her core.
(So this whole time, Kudo has been staying in this place with all these kinds of girls?!)
She could not even process this type of information, despite that her Intelligence stat has reached a high number. She has never expected, even through dozens of different simulations, that Kudo would wind up living in the same place as all these beautiful women.
It disturbed her mentally. Something was beginning to break—a crack formed on the glass within her bountiful mind.
“Is Mother here?” Kudo looked back at the maids and asked. “I want to show her my friends.”
“Master Hikari is in her office inspecting some matters over from the council,” The High Elf maid responded. “Knowing her, she will finish in several minutes.”
“I see,” Kudo placed his hands on his hips. “No choice then. Guys, let’s kill some time by going to the living room.”
Kudo looked back at the group, getting each of them to nod as they followed Kudo to the said living room, though Hinota was the last of them to go as her mind was still fizzing out with the reality of the situation.
Getting to the living room, the vast space left some of them dizzy, but once they saw the larger-than-life TV screen in front of them, Mizuri and Tsuchi went ahead to watch it. Kuki and Raika followed suit while Kudo stayed behind with Hinota.
“T-This is an incredible house,” Hinota finally managed to say, her mind now working properly for now.
“Yeah, but the people here are more incredible. They’re amazing in their own way, Hinota!”
Kudo said it in such a way to praise their amazing capabilities as maids, which was cleaning the entire mansion spotless, or cooking up such delicious food that even Raika couldn't beat—though it would be a very close match—and of course being able to follow along Hikari’s insane demands.
However, in Hinota’s mind, she heard the complete opposite. Her heart became rattled as those innocent-sounding words actually seem somewhat immoral.
“I-I see… so… you didn’t… you know…”
Hinota’s words were let out of her mouth without properly thinking. Her face faintly blushed while her eyes darted left and right. Noticing this aberrant behavior, Kudo asked:
“Hinota, are you alright?”
He asked in the purest, innocent way which left Hinota to freeze up on the spot. In that instant, she asked herself:
(I-It’s not like I’m curious about his relationships here—of course not! I’m just very worried that they might have done something to him during his mourning! It is my job as his best friend to make sure that he wasn’t taken advantage of in his personal time.)
That thought of her only took a nanosecond, and in the next nanosecond, her mind has already composed herself so that she can ask this question.
“Kudo…” After recovering, her tone returned to normal, and her smile returned which caught Kudo’s attention. “Your mother… she didn’t do anything… bad to you, did she?”
Hearing an unexpected grunt, Hinota raised her right brow.
Now, she sees Kudo looking away, his eyes off into a distant space with a stiffened expression, the corner of his usual smile quivering. A sweat trickled down his pale skin.
“O-Of course not,” Kudo began to shake. “Nothing happened here. I was just—”
But he was cut right off. Hinota closed up right up to his face, facing him with her eyes. The look on her face placed a heavy pressure on his very being, like some demonic force was exuding off of her very presence.
A furious flame erupted from her purple eyes, showing an expression that she has never shown before to him.
“…Did something happened?” Hinota asked in such a way that perturbed Kudo through to his core.
“N-Nothing happened! …Per say.”
Kudo cursed himself for adding something extra at the end of his sentence. Hinota’s glare became heavier by the second, and Kudo could feel as if the entire atmosphere around them turned dark and ominous.
“N-Nothing bad happened1 Really! You know the scar that I had? The one that wouldn’t heal from the potions?”
Hinota caught Kudo’s words and then her atmosphere around her turned mild as she listened to his plea.
“See, my mother helped me out by giving me medicine to heal it…”
Kudo’s heart nearly jumped out of his chest as a new voice chimed in. Hinota looked to the side to see the maid with a colorful red-and blue headdress adorned on her purple hair.
Shokan, the head maid, made her appearance.
“Who are you?” Seeing as how Hinota was right in the middle of her interrogation, or as she calls it, just a questioning, her tone was less than friendly when she was faced with another beautiful maid beside Kudo.
“It is a pleasure to finally see you, Master Hinota. My name is Shokan, Master Hikari's personal maid,” Shokan graced Hinota with a pleasant bow, not disturbed by her expression at all.
Hinota’s face returned to its normal glare after seeing her introduction, “I see… and, what’s this about the medicine used to heal Kudo?”
“About that,” Shokan raised her head, her dainty hand on her cheek and a somewhat coy smile. “You see, our master is not the kind to see her precious son in such shape, and so, after observing his injury from the bath, we made sure that we administered it in his sleep. Of course, we made sure that he was pleasantly comforted as we have done so.”
The suspicious words alone left Kudo gaping. The way she said all that made it even shadier to begin with.
Meanwhile, Hinota stood still, turning into a statue, a small smile frozen in shock on her face.
Another crack formed deep within her mind. This time, it grew wider in each second.
“B-Bath…?” Hinota managed to hear this one word out of the rest more clearly. Her body shook as something was coming out of her ears, similar to that of steam from an overheated brain processing.
“A-Ah, it’s nothing! So they did it without my permission, but it was with all good intentions!”
Kudo tried to fan down the flames festering within Hinota’s aura as it grew fiercer by the second, but thanks to his phrasing, those flames burst forth in a massive explosion.
“What happened in the bath?! And what do you mean ‘without your permission’?! They drugged you?!”
Kudo now felt like kicking himself for failing so hard on trying to keep things under wraps. He turned to Shokan, a shocked and despairing look on his face while Shokan merely placed her hand over her mouth and a light chuckle was let out.
(D-Did she do this on purpose?!) Kudo panicked and truly believed this from the look of her expression.
Hinota’s face was overridden with anger, her scowl becoming more ferocious by the second while Shokan just pleasantly walked away from the rising pillar of flames growing even stronger.
“Kudo, did they do something to you?!”
Hinota held onto Kudo’s shoulders with a tight grip, flaring her nose and gritting her teeth as she dug her fingers further into his skin for answers.
“Mmh? What’s going on?” Tsuchi managed to look away from the glorious TV and spotted a commotion going on behind them.
“Mmh? What did they do to him?” Mizuri looked behind from the couch, getting Raika and Kuki to follow suit.
“Kudo! Answer me!” Hinota once again insists on the answer.
“Ahh, it’s really nothing! I rather not talk about it anyways…” Kudo looked away, visibly sweating as he recalls the awful memories of when he first came here and took a bath, and the traumatizing events that followed afterward.
He wanted to avoid telling Hinota that at all costs.
“What do you mean ‘you rather not talk about it’?! Did they do something horrible to you?!”
Despite his best efforts to let it die down, Hinota’s fire became enraged with fury, nearly at her peak of the boiling point.
“Yo! We’re here~”
Suddenly, a cool voice reverberated through the giant living room. Realizing who it was, Kudo felt his skin crawl at the impending doom soon to come.
Coming into the living room were two people, a man and a woman. The man, sporting a black leather jacket and a carefree smile, Kagero waved as he came inside to the group in front. Meanwhile, alongside him was the one who captivated the EarthFire members and even still the StormPlus members.
Her long, blazing red hair that swayed along her steps, a regal scowl that accents her overall beauty. Her slanted eyes moved to them, a smile on her lips.
“Good to see everyone so energetic… mmh?” Right as Kasara said it, she spotted the two apparently having a fight. Kudo nearly froze up as he sees Kasara coming in from the back, and saw Hinota’s face later.
Her face stiffened up, her scowl no longer apparent, only a surprised expression. Hinota saw her nostalgic red hair and similar slanted eyes.
“…Dear Sister?” She looked back, her mouth shaking and her voice trembling.
“H-Hinota…?!” Kasara, known for her cool-headed personality, became surprised out of the blue. Left stunned, the two sisters met each other again, in such an unexpected meeting place.
“Dear sister… you’re here?” Hinota walked up further to Kasara, not realizing that Kasara actually took a step back in accordance.
“H-Hinota… How… but I thought I had time…” Kasara looked just as surprised, beginning to panic within her mind.
“Dear sister…. It’s really you…” Hinota was just about to well up tears in her eyes, but then she spotted Kagero at the corner of her eyes. “And… who’s this?”
Feeling the similar heavy gaze from her, Kagero felt like he was seeing a smaller version of Kasara. He’s used to being glared at, so he smiled warmly and introduced himself.
“Hey there, Hinota. Do you remember me?” Seeing that Kasara was too stunned to even speak, Kagero figured that he should begin speaking. “It’s been a long time, probably since you were a little kid. But I used to see you whenever I drop by the manor.”
His words sparked a memory within Hinota’s backlog over a few years ago. Thanks to her high Intelligence stat, she is able to recall those memories perfectly. She recalls, in her manor back in Erijo, a dirty looking boy would come by every so often, avoiding the watchful guard’s eyes to see both the sisters specifically, more so, to see Kasara.
She recalls seeing him and playing with him and then before long, he would disappear before the guards would come by. His slightly good-looking face and black hair made an impression on her young mind.
“You’re… Kagero, right?” Hinota slowly asked as Kagero nodded.
“That’s right!” Kagero felt somewhat elated upon hearing her remembrance. “I’m so glad that you remember me after so lo—”
Suddenly, a boot meets his face.
Everyone saw it as if it played in slow motion. His smiling face was slowly getting contorted in a distorted way. It happened so quickly, but everyone was able to see how Hinota raised her right leg and gyrated herself, raising her right leg high as if she was doing a split in the air before her boot swung right across Kagero’s face.
It caught him completely off guard and his head flew along with his body from the massive strength she held within her thin and toned legs.
“Kagero!!!” Kudo screamed in horror, while Kasara was left gaping as Kagero flew right into the fancy wall and made his own decoration on it by slamming his face into it. The wall cracked apart as Kagero fell to the ground after the wall absorbed the shock.
His face had a boot-marked red cheek that was smoking from the impact after the high-velocity kick, and Hinota’s right boot also let off a small trail of steam from it, her expression showing a deep scowl.
“Filthy,” Hinota’s tone was dark and spiteful, containing no mercy for the one she just kicked. “Bastard that always follow my Dear Sister like a stalker. Even now you keep up with it. How despicable can you be?”
Hinota lowered her leg as she sent a scowl so condescending to Kagero as if she was staring at a cockroach wallowing in trash letting off an expired stench.
“Whoa?!” The members who were innocently watching the scene were left flabbergasted by this turnabout. Tsuchi and Mizuri were, in a sense, impressed, while Kuki and Raika were left frightened by her seemingly vast strength.
“H-Hinota’s insane, just like I thought!” Kuki commented, his body trembling.
“Y-You were right! She’s so scary!” Raika trembled, holding onto her childhood friend for safety.
“H-Hinota! Why the hell would you do that?!”
Kudo was more shocked than anyone. She would have never assaulted someone just for introducing himself politely.
“Kudo, he’s nothing but trash. A filthy stalker that invades our home and tries to woo Dear Sister, but it never works. Of course I would deliver punishment to him now that I’m able to do so.”
“H-Hinota, that’s going too far! Even if he did something bad to you—”
“He didn’t actually do anything bad to me,” Hinota corrected. “He just followed Dear Sister a lot and I didn’t like that.”
“That’s even worse!”
Kudo, for once, couldn’t make sense of her logic. He looked at Kagero whose eyes spun around from such a kick that even at his high level knocked him out. Just how strong was that kick?
“Hinota! You shouldn’t do that!” Kasara stepped in as she thought that Hinota might hurt Kagero again might be possible. “He’s… he’s family! He’s your brother-in-law, in short, he’s my husband now!”
Kasara believed that if she explains this, then her anger would settle down. But because of their time being separated from each other, her yearning for her dear sister brought Hinota to this level.
In short, it only brought out the pandemonium in her soul.
“Eh…? Eh? Ah… No way, no way, no way, no way… that can’t be possible, I mean… it’s Dear Sister, but with Kagero…? That’s… that can’t be right. It’s not possible. It’s against nature…”
Hinota continued to mutter, her body trembled, her eyes losing their color and her mental state was slowly breaking. Even for Kudo and Kasara, they have never seen this before in their lives.
“H-Hino’s gonna blow?!”
Tsuchi shouted, but it could even be true as he and the other members hid behind the couch to avoid the aftermath that’s soon to follow.
“That can’t be! I refuse! I refuse to accept that dirty, no-good, piece of trash Kagero as my dear brother! I refuse to believe that he’s married to someone like you! No way, no way!”
What came after was an outcry of a childish motion from Hinota who stomped the ground, tears welling in her eyes as she screamed outright. Kasara and Kudo were taken aback by this sudden childish outburst, and for Kudo specifically, this was a new side of Hinota that he has never seen before.
Kudo knew that Hinota garnered so much respect for her sister, but to see her so visibly obsessed to the point of rejecting Kagero, it blew his mind.
“Hinota, stop acting like a child! This is fact!”
“No way! I’ll never believe it! I’ve never seen you two married, and how am I supposed to know what happened when you never even told me that you got married?!”
This time, her outburst was directed at her own sister, but they became valid as Kasara was taken by surprise which made her freeze up on the spot. Sweat trickling down her fair skin, Kasara knew that this day would come.
“T-That’s… due to circumstances…”
“How could you, Dear Sister?! To marry someone as worthless as Kagero?!”
“You don’t have to take it that far!”
Kasara, for the first time, became at a loss to which Kudo couldn’t even imagine. Seeing the situation for himself, Kudo acted.
“H-Hinota, please calm down—”
“Kudo!” Suddenly, Hinota turned to him, her eyes glowering not at him, but at someone else. “That woman, Hikari Valkyria… she did something to both you and Dear Sister, right?!”
“N-No! Nothing bad happened! Please, calm down!”
Kudo knew now that Hinota was too rattled to make conscious decisions. She wouldn’t normally lose control like this, but after her sister became involved, she has lost her sense of composure. It was up to Kudo to make sure that nothing else bad happens that will push her off to the edge of sanity.
“I’m here! Whoo! Finally done with all that nonsense.”
The one who caused her sanity to become at breaking point was now entering the house, making her presence known. Everyone turned back to see Hikari walking through the entrance of the living room with a gait, a satisfied expression on her noble face.
“W-Wow… it’s really her!”
Tsuchi and Mizuri were left in awe after seeing the mighty Hikari Valkyria for themselves. Wearing her usual black attire, her long azure hair and her remarkable jade eyes made their impression on them, finally seeing the woman who has topped every single adventurer in sight.
Of course, Hinota noticed her too.
“Oh,” Hikari turned to them, an ever care-free smile on her face. “Are these the new visitors that Kudo brought in? How do you all do? My name is Hikar—”
And suddenly, boot meets face once more.
Before Hikari could even introduce herself as she stepped in with a bright smile on her face, a toughened leather boot came in flying across the room, and unfortunately, it landed right on it.
Like before, everything happened in slow motion. Hinota gave herself a running start, then she bent her knees and jumped as high as she could. Raising her boot once again in front of her, she flew through the air with a powerful air kick that landed right on Hikari’s face. Her boot nearly made her nose along with everything connecting to it sink in as she landed.
“It’s all because of you!!!”
Shokan, who came in alongside her, was left with a haunting expression. The party members: Tsuchi, Mizuri, Raika, and Kuki were left as if their faces were jolted by a bolt of electricity, their mouths gaping and their eyes bursting out of their skulls.
Kagero was left completely knocked out for him to see this event at all.
The best friend and older sister screamed in unison, their souls synchronizing in pure terror as their screams echoed across the hall and throughout the mansion.