Hour Empty Child
“Hinota! What on earth were you trying to do?!”
“Hinota, do you have any idea what you have done?”
Both concern caretakers of Hinota, Kudo and Kasara, stood in front of her as she sat on the ground, taking a folding position with her knees on the floor as she hung her head in shame, her chest stinging with guilt.
They were in Kudo’s room, one of the places where there wasn’t an uproar throughout the mansion over Hikari’s small injury. Kudo worried that if they were caught, they would have been somewhat punished by them, so he took the sisters to his room to deal out their own scolding.
Being lectured and scolded by the two she cares the most can take out a lot of her confidence.
“But…” Hinota uttered, raising her head. “But I was just—”
“Hinota, if Mother wasn’t understanding, you would have lost your life!” Kudo was the first to intervene, furrowing his brows at the very action that took place. Hearing it from him made Hinota purse her lips as she flinched from his shout.
“Not just that,” Kasra continued for Kudo. “Anyone you ever know and have known would have been affected. If Master was a tyrant, the Flamver family back in Peranim would cease to exist! Do you want to be responsible for that, Hinota?”
Kasara’s words were cold as ice, contrary to her fiery red hair and glare. Hinota kept silent and hung her head down once more.
“But… she’s… She’s just doing what she wants to you guys… I don’t like that.”
Both Kudo and Kasara looked back at each other, showing a pained expression as they understood her plight. In the end, it was their fault for worrying Hinota to this extreme.
They knew that Hinota can be hot-headed at times, but only when it involves something that she really cares about. Both Kasara and Kudo were the two people that she cares the most, so it was obvious that Hinota would lose it when Kasara was with Hikari all this time, and Kudo was taken advantage by Hikari.
“…Hah,” Kasara heaved a sigh. “I understand your intentions… but please, be more careful. You’re lucky that Master decided to forgive you. In fact, you should feel grateful for her in various ways, since she was the one that got you over to Roprase in the first place.”
Both Kudo and Hinota raised their heads at the same time. This was new to them.
“S-So Mother got Hinota to come over here?!”
“T-Then, when Grandpa said that he got it from an old friend of his… does that mean—?”
“Yes,” Kasara intercepted. “It was Master Hikari that gave him all that. She wanted you to come here by all means.
“F-For what…?” Hinota asked, a slight worry nestling in her heart as Kasara closed her eyes, and pointed her head at her side.
“What else? So you can be with Kudo.”
Hearing that, Hinota slowly gasped in surprise. Kudo was also stunned to hear that, enough to lose his breath. It’s thanks to Hikari that the two were able to meet up again in the same country.
“Of course, I didn’t expect you to come here so soon. I suppose I shouldn’t underestimate Kudo’s luck,” Kasara formed a small smile as she opened her eyes to see them. “Hinota, this means that Master is your benefactor, whether you like it or not.”
“T-That’s…” Hinota looked up to Kasara. “I understand that now… but why do you keep calling her Master? D-Does she own you…?”
Hinota’s heart stung for the possibility that Kasara could have been in serious debt, and that she owes money to Hikari. Losing her credentials to her right, she thought her dear sister could have been enslaved by Hikari.
Kasara shook her head. “It’s not that. I am a part of her guild, the Alpha Heart. She is the guildmaster of it. I am also the vice-master, so fundamentally, she is my superior.”
Kasara explained smoothly which eased Hinota’s heart from worry. “Amazing… so you are Alpha Heart’s vice master…”
Hinota sounded in awe after repeating her words, getting Kudo to nod in agreement as it was something to brag about.
“T-Then… what did she do to Kudo that made him look so anxious, and why is he calling her ‘Mother?’”
Hinota now directed to Kudo who instantly flinched, his eyes darted to the side with a sweat trickling down his head.
“That’s something which Kudo will answer at his own personal time. I’m sure you know that it will take time for him to explain, understand?”
Kasara explained in a way a proper adult would conclude a problem, making Hinota purse her lips once again while it made Kudo feel slightly bad since she was only asking because she was worried.
Seeing her being so remorseful, Kasara figured that she had just about enough.
“Then, I’ll be heading out. I better do my best to control the damage. Kudo, I expect you to take care of my overexcited little sister.”
Kudo nodded in agreement. Kasara nodded once before she turned around and left the room.
Kudo and Hinota were now left alone in the spacious room. It was hard to breath for one of them, and difficult to handle for the other. Hinota was still unease about the entire situation, and Kudo understood it.
It was only natural that Hinota would take such an action, especially when being kept in the dark about all this.
Kudo wanted to act—he at least wanted her to feel secure.
“Hinota… I know this is hard to take in. Trust me, I know.”
Using his own experiences, Kudo sat down on the bed right near Hinota. Hinota felt the bed move before she turned to face him.
“Mother is… weird,” Kudo admitted. “She’s really strange, but she’s a good person… so far.”
Kudo wasn’t able to give a good impression for Hikari, but this is coming from his own heart. He couldn’t bear to lie to Hinota now.
“This is my fault. I should have told you that Kasara was here in the first place.”
“Yeah… that really took me by surprise,” Hinota’s left corner of her lips curled.
“I should have told you about her the moment I first saw you. I just got so excited…”
“It’s fine,” Hinota’s smile returned. “I don’t blame you. With everything that happened, I’m just glad that you’re alive and well.”
“Hinota…” Kudo wore a smile. He blew a breath of relief now that he was seeing Hinota in her composed state again.
“I’m sorry that you had to see me all flustered… I really should apologize to that woman, shouldn’t I?”
“Yes, you should,” Kudo spared no hesitation. “She can be weird, but she’s really powerful, in all matters. She’ll forgive you, but it’s better that you go ahead and apologize with all your might.”
Seeing Kudo forcefully into this, Hinota knew that she had no choice. She made a mistake. She can’t undo it, but she has to make up for it.
“Though, I understand why you would be angry… I mean, you did all that because you were worried about us.”
“T-That’s…” A faint blush showed on Hinota’s cheeks.
“I know you better than anyone, Hinota. That’s why I’m really happy that you got angry for us.”
“Y-You were just upset about it a second ago…”
“I am,” Kudo proved her right. “But that doesn’t mean that you did it out of malicious intentions. You did it because you were trying to protect us in your own way. How can I not be grateful for that?”
“Kudo…” Hinota’s smile returned after seeing Kudo’s gentle gaze again. It was more soothing than she remembered.
Seeing that they made up, they took the chance to stay behind in the room to talk a bit more. Their party members were still going over the shock of Hinota kicking the one and only Hikari Valkyria, so they stayed behind in the living room to calm themselves down.
Though, they had to keep their conversation short, unless they’ll get suspected of doing something strange by their party members.
“So, what happened to you and your family, Hinota?”
Kudo has been ever so curious about the statement Hinota made when they first saw each other, so Kudo asked about her cut-up ties.
“Ah, that… it’s not that much of a big deal.”
“Being disowned by your family sounds like a big deal to me! What on Yarim happened?”
It was only for a moment, but Hinota took this scene of the two of them talking to each other on his bed as if they were two lovers exchanging stories. Trying to put down this thought into the back of her mind, Hinota cleared her throat with a small grunt.
“Well, you know how I was forced to be back with them or else they will put up a bounty on you?”
“Yeah. It wasn’t a pleasant experience…” Kudo felt the cold and cruel treatment her family gave him.
“Well, this was so that the marriage between me and my cousin would come into place. Not to mention, after the incident in Vipory, they say that the country will enter into a chaotic time. They wanted me to be safe and stay in the mansion as I’m married to Lariz.”
“S-So soon?!” Kudo couldn’t believe that such an event occurred.
“I am of marrying age in Peranim, so it’s not rare for us to be married.”
“Y-Yeah, I know, but…”
The idea of Hinota marrying another somehow brought a stinging feeling in his heart. He wondered what this pain was.
“The reason I was able to postpone it for so long was because I was still on my journey. Thanks to the threat Shinezu created, my parents wanted me to ensure their bloodline by staying behind. They wanted to trap me there so that I wouldn’t get away. I wouldn’t just let that happen.”
“S-So what did you do?” His heart quickened its pace. He was getting slightly excited about the conclusion.
“I challenged my family and proved that I am able to take care of myself, and so, I decided to cut myself away from their ties. Like my sister, I no longer have anything to do with the Flamver family.”
“S-So you cut yourself away from them? But, wasn’t that difficult…?”
“It… maybe was. But I treasure my own freedom more than satisfying my parents’ selfish requests.”
Kudo was more in awe than astonished. Seeing Hinota bravely cut away her own ties with her family made her shine more brilliantly than ever before.
“But then… that means that you won’t be supported by them anymore.”
“That doesn’t matter anymore,” Hinota put on a sly smile. “You know the money we split up and brought back with me? Apparently, that’s more money than they have ever made in the same timespan as us.”
Kudo became impressed by their own progress. They were making more than a rich noble family makes.
“Our family trades off our items from our adventurers, but it’s usually garbage stuff that nobody would actually buy. The reason they do is because our name’s on it.”
“Eh…” Learning about their way of income, Kudo was left stunned.
“Since I was able to prove that I could make more money than they could on my own, I used that as proof to ask permission from my Lord Grandfather to heed my request.”
“T-That’s so amazing, Hinota! You’re so cool!” Kudo nearly jumped from his seat like a child listening to an exciting story.
Seeing his exuberant reactions, Hinota praised herself for a job well done of relaying her story.
“I’m so happy for you, Hinota!”
Out of excitement, Kudo grabbed Hinota’s hands and shook them fervently for her success.
“Now you don’t have to be married to some guy!” Kudo was most excited about this type of news.
“Hehe, are you that happy that I’m a free woman now?”
Hinota saw her chance to tease Kudo again by mentioning of her relationship status. However, hearing Kudo’s sudden answer out of excitement and without properly listening it, it caught Hinota by surprise, her face tinged with red.
Shaking her hand, it took Kudo a while to process exactly what she asked, and what he answered with.
He stopped jumping. He realized what she meant to say.
“Ah… that’s…” His face burning red, Kudo looked directly into Hinota’s eyes, her face in the same red state as his.
Not only that, but the two were still holding hands. Feeling the warmth of their hands, their faces grew hotter and their chests pounded loudly.
“I-I’m excited because you can adventure with me from now on!!”
“Y-Yeah! Me too! I’m really glad!”
Taking this chance, Kudo properly explained his reason, getting Hinota to catch what he meant and followed up with him. The strange atmosphere the two had a few seconds before has gone away, but their hearts were still beating rapidly.
Once they left the room, Kudo and Hinota had to face another difficult matter.
When they came back to the living room, they saw Hikari sitting on a giant chair that resembled a throne—which is always Hikari’s chair—her back straightened up and her arms folded underneath her giant chest.
The reason as to why she took this position was because Shokan was administering first aid to the side of her cheek after it was afflicted with a kick delivered straight from Hinota’s heart.
Kudo and Hinota stepped in slowly, getting Hikari to see them coming in.
“Oh, you’re here now. Hinota, have you calmed down now?” Hikari responded with alteration in her tone. She was talking as if the last 10 minutes didn’t happen at all, though the way she phrased her words made it perfectly clear to Hinota that she did not even bother to be upset about it.
Though it frustrated her, considering her treasured people’s feelings, she was glad that she wasn’t upset.
“Miss Valkyria…” Hinota spoke formally, as if she was relaying to her former family. “I…
apologize for my lack of respect in your own household. I am… ashamed of what I have done. Please forgive me.”
Hinota held nothing back as she bowed her head in respect to her. She bowed with such grace that it left the four members—watching from the side and were too afraid to even move—in awe, especially Kuki and Raika.
“I forgive you,” Hikari’s radiant smile flashed across the room. “Rather, I should be the one apologizing. I can see that Kudo and Kasara are the two most important people in your life. It was obvious that you would have gotten angry over it, am I right?”
Hearing the most obvious question, a faint blush rose from her cheeks as she lifted her head to face her, “Y-Yes…”
“However, do please try to be more careful in your surroundings,” Hikari gave her own scolding in a light-hearted manner. “Other than that, I hope we can put this under the bridge as soon as possible.”
Shokan finishes her aid, which was placing a white gauze taped over her afflicted cheek.
Though it was just administered to her, Hikari had an expression that showed no sign of pain at all.
(That’s so frustrating…) Hinota thought to herself. To be able to take on Hinota’s powerful kick, holding nothing back, and to be able to not only stand, but not even flinch at all from it got her to grit her teeth in agitation.
“Now then,” Hikari stood up from her chair, leaving the others, mostly the party members, to be taken aback and felt queasy for her answer. “This is a joyous occasion! My precious son’s best friend and my dear vassal’s little sister has finally come here. Not only that, she has also brought in good friends. This is a time of celebration! Shokan!”
“Yes, Master,” Shokan immediately responded.
“Prepare another feast!”
“Another expensive one, I presume?”
“Only the best!”
Upon receiving her orders, Shokan smiled as she wasted no time on heading out of the living room with a certain haste, fast but graceful, leaving the young teenagers and the Master with her vassals behind.
Tsuchi and Mizuri were left wide-eyed before turning back to each other, each having a glint in their eyes and the corners of their mouths salivating.
“A-A feast!?” Tsuchi shouted.
“A Valkyria feast!” Mizuri reacted, wiping the drool from her mouth with starving eyes.
Kudo looked over at Hinota who remained stunned by all this by the look of her widened slanted eyes.
“Hinota, don’t think too hard about it. She’s always like this.”
Putting a hand on her shoulder, she looked back to see his gentle smile. Seeing that there is no point in dwelling it over, Hinota let out a slightly exasperated sigh, forming a defeated smile.