Hour Empty Child
Hearing Hinota actually scream so femininely, it brought Kudo’s senses to come back in full strength. His face hotter than the bath water itself, he turned his head using his left hand to cover his eyes while using the other to bring his towel to his privates, which he failed to do so upon encountering her.
Meanwhile, Hinota quickly submerged her body into the water, forgetting about the towel as it wrapped around her developed body and swayed within the water itself.
The atmosphere then quickly dissipated from a heated encounter to an awkward silence for about 3 seconds before Kudo had the decency to shout.
“I-I’ll leave!” Kudo was more than ready to avoid any further complications.
However, everything came to a halt the moment Hinota spoke out in contrast. Her face still blistering hot, Kudo did so and stood still.
“E-Eh…?” Even if he was ordered to wait, his mind was still befuddled with confusion.
“W-Why did you come in here, anyway?” Somehow, Hinota didn’t sound mad. It didn’t seem like she was going to obliterate Kudo with a Fireball.
Turning his head so his back was facing her, Kudo responded: “I-I came in here because Shokan told me that you were done.”
“D-Done..? Then… did she…?”
Despite this overbearing situation, Hinota was composed enough to figure out what has happened for this incident to even occur. After all the possibilities and variables that have happened, only one possible answer came into thought.
(That woman…) Hinota cursed the one possibly responsible for everything—Hikari.
Only she would have formulated such a plan like this out of pure enjoyment. Her right fist—while the other held her towel—shook in rage while Kudo’s heart was just about ready to beat out of his chest.
“J-Just wait a moment!”
When Kudo figured that she was taking a while, he thought that he should leave, but then Hinota halted him again.
“S-Shouldn’t I leave?” He asked what should be an obvious question.
“T-That’s… since you went through the trouble of going here, and even without your clothes…” Hinota spotted Kudo’s bare skin which she immediately looked away. “You might as well…just join in.”
The very words alone made the two tremble within their cores. Even if it was within context, it still sounded dirty.
“H-H-Hinota?!” Kudo exclaimed, his mind fuddling with his mouth which messed up his words and made his voice squeaky.
“H-However!” Right before Kudo nearly lost his marbles, Hinota intercepted by dousing the heated atmosphere by raising her hand forward. “You can’t look over here! We stay on our backsides at all times!”
“E-Even with those rules…!” Kudo knew that at this point, setting up rules was pointless. The entire situation was out of hand in the first place.
“Kudo, please, if you leave right now, it’ll be really awkward from here on out!” Hinota pleaded with Kudo. “So you need to stay here and make conversation!”
Kudo tried to make sense of what she was trying to imply. From the way she worded it, it makes sense that after this, if they don’t follow up with a certain memory other than pure shock and embarrassment, it will be difficult for them to see each other without remembering their encounter in the bath. So her plan seems like a logical choice from a mature perspective.
“So…” Hinota couldn’t bear to look at him, her cheeks blistering red even without the use of the bath water. “Can you just stay and… help me not get embarrassed?”
Kudo’s mind practically melted from the way her voice sweetly turned meek, getting him to lose his sense of ethics.
A minute passed, and the atmosphere was so heavy, the steam didn’t help on their breathing. Kudo was in his birthday suit, his towel on his shoulder as he sat back to back with Hinota who, since the towel was wet anyway, still hugged it within the warm water, the towel caked to her soft body as her sweat started trickling down from it to the water’s surface.
“…Sorry for making you do this.”
“Y-You don’t have to apologize. I should have ignored Shokan’s words…”
Hinota, though she was the victim in all of this, apologized for her sudden planning, getting Kudo to ward it off, blaming it all on Shokan. Kudo couldn’t believe what Shokan did to them, and if Hinota wasn’t so understanding, the two’s friendship would have broken off right here and now.
“Umm…” Despite getting an explanation, the current situation and the heat being hotter than normal messed with his memory. “Tell me again why I’m still here?”
“Like I said,” Hinota’s cheeks burned red, understanding Kudo’s confusion a little. “T-This is so that things won’t be so awkward. Adventurers often bathe with each other to raise intimacy, even if the adventurers had male and female participants.”
“R-Really?” I never heard of that before…” Kudo swore that he has never made friends with any females while he was bathing.
“Well,” Hinota clears her throat with a soft grunt. “The thing is, it’s still not exactly moral. While it may be extremely personal, doing so with somebody you barely know is especially unethical. Some male adventurers believe that getting into a bath with their female member would make them closer, but it will only make it to the point of the girl leaving the party for good.”
“Ah… so…” Kudo was starting to piece together their current situation.
“So that’s why we’re doing this—this is so that none of that negativity of awkwardness between us will get in our way of our adventures. If I accept you as my comrade, then bathing together to increase intimacy is acceptable in society.”
“A-As expected of Hinota, you’re always so smart!”
Kudo was literally impressed by her knowledge. He smiled knowing that Hinota found a way to make the atmosphere better to breathe in.
However, since he was facing away from Hinota, he did not notice that she was blushing the entire time, her shoulders trembling as she hoped that it was an acceptable answer.
“Still… it’s pretty weird,” Despite his earlier happiness, he still grew doubt in his mind. “And… aren’t you afraid that I might do something?”
He asked because it would be natural if Hinota had some fears about Kudo being in the same bath. However, Hinota’s tone showed none of that fear.
“Knowing you, you’re the last person that would do anything to me.”
“…Somehow, that kinda hurts.”
Kudo felt a slight sting in his manhood from Hinota’s none-hesitant answer.
“I-I meant that,” Hinota rephrased herself, realizing what she said. “I trust you more than anyone. I wouldn’t leave my back to you if you weren’t someone I trust full time.”
“O-Oh, that’s what you meant…” Knowing her meaning now, his manhood and heart were relieved of their sting.
However, no matter what words were strung to keep themselves calm, it didn’t change the fact that the two were naked and near each other quite closely.
Kudo and Hinota realized this as they hung their heads low, both faces blushing as the heat were getting to their heads. Hinota, against all reason, took a peek at the corner of her eye.
Because she believed that it’s okay to do this since first, he saw her backside completely nude, so this is payback. And second, it’s okay that a man gets stared at and not a woman.
Though she herself believed that the latter logic was slightly twisted, she couldn’t help herself noticing something there.
Barely, she saw his muscles glistening from the water, looking powerful and quite well-toned to the point of possibly breaking stone if he wanted to. While she was distracted by this, she managed to uncover something else.”
“…Kudo, your scar. What happened to it?”
Recalling the awful injury, Hinota asked which made Kudo raise his head.
“Ah…” Kudo scratched his cheek. He didn’t know what to say at this point. “T-That’s… While I was asleep, Mother administered specialized medicine into the scar. It was painful, but it healed so much more than a regular potion would from Peranim.”
“A-Asleep… she really did something like that to you?!” Hinota turned, water splashed around her as her bosoms swayed and created a small wave. As she turned, she realized that she was breaking her own rule—her face reddened up further as she turned back around again, her arms neatly tucked near her large chest.
“T-That’s illegal, isn’t it? Administering it without permission?” She asked again for confirmation of Roprase’s laws.
“It is… but it really fixed me up, and now it doesn’t hurt anymore.”
Kudo showed an understanding smile as he had no choice but to agree with her, but it left Hinota surprised.
It still hurt him, and Hikari fixed it up for him. Even if Hinota managed to help him survive, the fact remains that he was still injured and suffering. Hinota felt her heart sting at the fact that her best friend was suffering despite that she was near him before they departed.
“I see… and… the reason why you call her Mother…?” Hinota asked this final question, however personal it may be.
“That’s… she just wants me to do it,” Kudo has forbidden himself from ever speaking about the therapy to anyone. “And since she helped me so much and offered me a place to stay when I had nowhere else to go, I just figured that I should call her that.”
Hinota took in that half-lie, since it was true about the fact that Kudo owed her plenty thanks to her guidance. Now, Hinota felt that she was beyond rude, and getting away with living in her house possibly for free was too much for someone who has rudely kicked Kudo’s benefactor in the face.
Even so, knowing that Kudo was safe and even healed up filled her with elation.
“…Kudo,” Hinota smiled to herself. “I’m really glad that we’re together now.”
“R-Really?!” Kudo took those words literally, causing Hinota’s face to blow steam coming out of her ears, her cheeks completely flushed.
“N-Not like that! I mean at this place, not the bath!”
Quickly stating her context, Kudo once again had his heart beating faster as Hinota explained further.
“I’m glad that we’re no longer separated. So, from now on, we’ll always stick together… N-Not here, but as best friends!”
Hinota quickly changed the context again. Kudo nodded in agreement.
“Y-Yeah… I feel the same way.”
Hearing his response, Hinota thought about the other situation at hand, and used this chance to ask.
“Are you okay with my friends?” Hinota asked with a slight concern, perking Kudo’s ears up.
“You mean Tsuchi and Mizuri? Y-Yeah, of course I am. Why’d you ask?”
“Ah,” Hinota picked up her wet red hair on her shoulder, and began to fiddle with it. “I was just wondering if they made you nervous or anything.”
Hinota knew exactly where Kudo’s insecurities lie. Giving in, Kudo let out a sigh.
“I’ll get used to them, one way or another. If I can do the same with Raika and Kuki, then I can do it for Tsuchi and Mizuri as well.”
“Oh, good,” Hinota let out a short breath of relief. “I thought that it would make things awkward, but it looks like you really improved on your socialness.”
“Y-Yeah… sort of.
Kudo chuckled, but then a spark of an idea formed in his head, making his heart beat in excitement.
“Ah, Hinota! If you’re staying here, then you can join our guild!”
“Guild?” Hinota tilted her head, still facing away from Kudo.
“Yeah! It’s the same one Kasara’s in. It’s called the Alpha Heart, and Mother’s the guildmaster. They’re the most powerful guild ever imaginable, and they only accept those with Special Classes. Hinota, you can join up with us!”
Kudo was just about to turn his head in excitement, but once he nearly saw the flawless snowy skin, Kudo whipped his head so fast to the other side that it made him dizzy, his cheeks blushing like mad.
“Isn’t the Alpha Heart the most powerful guild in existence? Wait, you’re a member?!” Hinota recalled what her comrades told her before, getting excited over the news.
“Yeah,” Kudo smiled. “They accept adventurers with Special Classes. So you can join!”
“I see…” Hinota smiled to herself, getting filled with excitement over the matter. “Then, of course I’ll join. Since you’re there, it’s obvious that I should be there too.”
“Yes!” Kudo splashed the water with his rising fists, a grand smile on his face as his excitement got the best of him. It made Hinota chuckle to hear such a pure and excited manner from him.
“Ah,” Hinota realized something else. “Can my friends join too? They also have special classes.”
“That’s perfect! Then everyone can be together! We’ll make a party and the six of us can go on adventures together! I’m so excited for tomorrow!”
His tone was easily showing his eagerness, but it didn’t bother Hinota one bit. Rather, she was happy that Kudo was getting excited about her joining the guild.
“Then,” Hinota felt herself getting giddy for tomorrow as well. “Tomorrow, we’ll join the guild. We better get to sleep early then.”
“Right!” Kudo agreed with no issue.
“And… it’s about time, too.”
“Mmh? For what?” Kudo tilted his head as Hinota’s face blushed once again as she cleared her throat.
“Kudo… can you look away? I want to get out now since I’m fairly clean now.”
Kudo’s face blushed at the mentioning of Hinota getting out. He hung his head and whimpered:
The dire situation was resolved quickly by Kudo looking away as Hinota got out of the bath. They did it in this order since Kudo might accidentally peek at Hinota if he were to get out first.
After some time, the heat slowly getting to him unlike Hinota who was used to the heat, Kudo eventually got out of the bath. As he has done so, he finally met up with Hinota standing in the hallway.
The two kept quiet as their faces showed their emotions by blushing madly red. Even if they were civilized unlike possibly the many boys and girls who would be in their situation, it was still too embarrassing to face each other so soon.
“Is the bath to your liking?”
Suddenly, Shokan’s voice pierced the awkward silence as they turned around to find her gleaming smile.
The two quickly shot deadly looks—Hinota with her slanted glare and Kudo with his distraught look.
“Shokan!” Kudo shouted, seeing that it was his responsibility to scold her.
“My, my, you two look so excited. Was it that enjoyable?”
Covering her mouth with her dainty hand and a lower-lidded look in her eyes made Kudo and Hinota turn completely red.
“ “No, it was not!” ” Kudo and Hinota simultaneously shouted in sync so much that it surprised Shokan, making her giggle to herself with a sly smile.
Kudo took Hinota over to the room where she will be staying at. For some reason, Hinota suggested to sleep near Kudo’s room, as to ‘protect him’ from any intruders.
“A-Are you sure about this…?” Kudo asked again, making sure that it was what she wants.
Kudo wasn’t quite sure if this was morally right, but after seeing the look in her eyes, glaring and fiery, he couldn’t say no.
Shokan was the one who showed her to her room, which was another room that seemed to be a replication of Kudo’s room with the same exotic design.
A large bed with another large TV similar to Kudo’s room, the interior design was practically the same as Kudo’s room, though it was in another different color of cream instead.
Satisfied with the room, the two went off to sleep, thus ending the first night Hinota spent in the Valkyria mansion.
Meanwhile, as the two slept in their warm beds that rivaled the bed of a nation’s king, inside the very room where the master of the mansion sleeps, in the same dim lighted atmosphere, Shokan stood in front of the sitting Hikari who sat on her grandiose chair with a creeping smile on her face.
“Hehehe, good job, my dear Shokan,” Hikari praised her maid. “Now it looks like the two won’t have any issues with each other.”
Hikari mistakenly believed that the plan Shokan came up with was the correct one for long time friends that separated. Her hand on her chin, she gave a haughty smile that seems to speak volumes of her high-standing pride.
“This is the girl that Kudo is rather fond of, so I’m thankful that she went ahead and asked to live here. Make sure that she’s perfectly comfortable.”
“Yes, Master,” Shokan bowed as she took in that order immediately.
Then, the sound of high-pitched ringing echoed across the room, catching the ears of Shokan who moved ahead without delay to the table where the phone was.
The phone, unlike the cell phone, was designed for in-house use. Shokan grabbed the rectangle-shaped phone from its cartridge, a small machine that powers the wireless phone, and took it near her ear to listen to the caller.
“…Master, it is for you.”
After saying her greeting and asked who it was, Shokan delivered the phone to Hikari which she took it to her hand and did the same thing by putting the phone near her ear.
“It is from La Ruinda,” Shokan replied.
“La Ruinda, huh? I wonder if it’s that guy…”
Hikari became increasingly curious as she took the phone to her ear to listen.
“Yes, this is Hikari Valkyria… Uh-huh…”
Hikari listened intently, even if it may seem to be just another call to ask for her wealth, however, as she listened in, her eyes began to widen, the dim-lighted atmosphere making her jade eyes sparkle in brilliance as she listened.
“Oh, is that so…? Then, I suppose that I should head on over there. I’ll be there as soon as I can. Yes, you may go ahead and put us in. I’ll be looking forward to the meeting~”
With a slight whimsical tone at the end, Hikari smiled as she turned her phone off, catching Shokan’s attention.
“Master, is this really okay?” Shokan, being the greatest maid there is, has incredible hearing capabilities, so she heard the conversation with Hikari and the other caller even from far away. “Won’t he be upset?”
“Don’t worry about it—this is necessary as well. Even if he doesn’t want it, he needs to learn just how much of a presence he has…”
Hikari stood up from her chair, moving towards the closed where the moonlight blast through the glass with its brilliance, showering Hikari with its light as she looked up at the starry sky.
“Shokan, make preparations for tomorrow.”
Having received her orders, Shokan diligently bowed and left the room, leaving Hikari with her thoughts as her eyes, full of confidence, looked up, a smile on her lips.
“Kudo… you will learn just who you are.”