Hour Empty Child
Since they were invited by none other than Hikari Valkyria, the E-Plus activities were put on hold before they could even be created.
The next day, early in the morning, the sun rose from the horizon and changed the hue of the sky into a bright blue. Out at the parking lot of the airport, the maids have all lined up in rows to make a makeshift road to the Valiant Steed which was standing by, waiting for its master to come ride it.
To do so, Hikari, Kasara and Kagero walked on the makeshift road to that avian. Following them behind were Kudo and Hinota. Seeing all this for herself, she was astounded by the sudden formal farewell from the maids.
“S-So fancy...it’s sort of like my manor, but with cute girls in frilly uniforms.”
Hinota commented which Kudo could only laugh it off awkwardly. As long as she isn’t mad, he’s perfectly okay with this. But then hurried footsteps rapidly rang out behind them. Kudo looked back to see the source and widened in surprise.
“P-Par? Fitty?” Kudo spoke in surprise as Hinota also turned back around, seeing the two people supposedly from the same guild.
One of them was a darker-skinned woman with a rather appealing huge body with a black apron over her large chest, and a beastman resembling a cat who looked rather flustered with his cat ears and tail flopping up and down as he ran.
“Hey! Master! You didn’t forget about us, didja?!” Fitty shouted out, a visible vein throbbing on his forehead as he yelled out for his master.
Hikari turned back before entering the avian, and looked as if she just realized something.
“Oh, my, I completely forgot.”
Hearing such a nonchalant response, Fitty nearly blew a gasket, his head blowing out hot steam out of his ears. Par chuckled as she grabbed hold of Fitty’s neck and dragged him near her chest which nearly overwhelmed him from the mass.
“Good thing we got here in time, huh, Fitty?” Par said with a carefree smile.
“L-Let go of me, you gigantic woman!” Fitty cried, his hands on Par’s arm trying to release himself from it.
“Oh, don’t be so mean, Fitty. You’re scaring the kids!”
“Like I care!”
The two began to playfully quarrel—though one of them was serious about it—eventually getting closer to the avian as they passed by the two teenagers.
“T-They sure are expressive, aren’t they?” Hinota said with a stunned look.
“Yeah, but they’re really nice people,” Kudo smiled which took Hinota by surprise.
It looked like Kudo wasn’t always shy in the guild. She could see that Kudo also met up with the members and made new friends. A smile rose from Hinota’s lips as the two headed forward, the door to the Avian opened upon order and each of them went inside.
“Haha, I was just kidding,” Hikari was speaking already as the two teens went inside. “It’s just that you two took so long in coming here that I figured that if I go now, you two would show up.”
“What kind of luck is that…? If you would have left, you would have abandoned us, Master,” Par commented, a sigh escaped from her lips.
“Hehe, you can always count on my luck~” Hikari gave her final wording before she turned to Chui, who stood by waiting for her orders, and gave a nod. Chui received those orders and headed to the cockpit.
Of course, Shokan stood right near Hikari as she sat on her big fancy chair with a prideful smile, while other passengers sat by her on the other comfortable seats.
Fitty was, in his own misfortune, sitting next to Par, while on the other side was the Flamver Family and Kudo, who refused to sit anywhere else where Hinota was not by his side.
“Whoa…” Hinota kept looking around the room in awe which made both Kudo and Kasara subconsciously smile at her adorable behavior.
After noticing that she was being stared at from both sides, Hinota’s cheeks burned red in chagrin.
“Oh, it’s nothing, Hinota,” Kasara mentioned.
“The avian is amazing, isn’t it, Hinota?” Kudo chuckled, making Hinota blush redder than usual.
The two decided, for her own safety, to explain what was going to happen while they are at the avian. Hearing that they were going to fly, Hinota was astounded as she could not believe that it would be possible.
But soon, the engine of the Avian started up. The room in the avian where the passengers seated started to rumble from the ignition of the engine, shocking Hinota. Like Kudo, her instincts activated, and she held onto the closest thing near her.
It made her hold onto Kudo.
It caught him by surprise to feel Hinota’s embrace over his shoulders, his face burning red as Hinota held onto him tighter as the rumbling intensified.
The avian outside drove on the runway of the airport before finally achieving liftoff, the avian becoming aloft in the air and began soaring right up to the endless sky. The maids who watched the ascent from the ground waved in farewell to their masters till their next meeting.
“S-Sorry about that, Kudo…”
Finally seeing herself doing such an act, Hinota’s face reddened like an apple as her face was inches close to Kudo’s face. It reminded the two of their daring moment in the bath yesterday which made Hinota release Kudo and returned to her seat with a chagrinned attitude.
Kudo looked away from everyone else, hoping that nobody would see his expression which was resisting in enjoying the moment that occurred.
Kasara, however, saw the whole spectacle, her eyes glinting in response.
(Hinota has grown up…) She thought with a devilish smile forming on her lips.
“Yes, sweetie?” Hikari responded endearingly to Kudo’s question.
“This La Ruinda… can you tell me more about it?”
Kudo figured that he should learn a little about the country he’s visiting. After all, all he knows that it is a commercialized country from Mizuri.
“I see that you would like to learn. See, the country is best known for their abundance of dungeons. It is a famous spot for most veteran adventurers to visit and hunt in.”
“A country abundant with dungeons…”
Kudo recalled the tower he and Hinota went to before, facing the lava golem that was quite an opponent. It was a thrilling yet dangerous encounter, and that was only the 70th-floor range.
It’s been a while since that happened, more than 4 months ago. He wondered if he could challenge it and win it this time with Hinota.
No doubt, Hinota had this very same thought as Hikari explained further.
“Course’, dungeons in Lerabelum ain’t no small feat. They may have been dungeons in Peranim, but in Lerabelum, the dungeons are way too advanced for adventurers who are fresh out of Adventurer’s School. Basically, those above level 100 aren’t even able to face against the first floor.”
Par took over, which brought the two teenager’s minds to a grinding halt. They knew that the continent is on another level compared to the small Peranim country, so they have forgotten that the dungeons were included.
Basically, Kudo and Hinota had no right to visit this country.
“The monsters in the overworld are not easy to defeat either compared to the fields outside Triun. The monsters’ levels at La Ruinda has a higher level average than Roprase. You brats have to be at least level 200 to even start at the beginning fields.”
Fitty added more to the pile. Whether it was intentional or not, it left the two young saplings’ spirits to ashes. They may be close, but at their current equipment and level, it was too far for them.
“Still,” Hikari figured that she would go back on topic. “You can’t even go into the dungeons without consulting one of my maids.”
“Eh? Why is that?” Hinota became the first to ask that question, followed by the curious Kudo.
“Master here has complete control over the trade industry,” Kasara started off with a bang. “You see, Master likes to visit the dungeons frequently during her spare time, and often reaches to the end of the floors and gain valuable items not found anywhere else. Not even veteran adventurers are able to procure those items like she can.”
“T-The end?! You mean she reached up to the hundredth floor?!” Kudo asked with a shocked expression. Reaching up to a hundredth floor is by no means easy.
And to reach several hundredth floors in different dungeons… it was toomuch for his mind to take.
“It’s rather easy when you know the ins and outs of the floors. They all follow a pattern which takes time to study. When you gain enough experience, you often pick these up on the go.”
Hikari offered her advice which Kudo and Hinota listened intently for. This was their big chance to learn how to complete dungeons in a short time necessary for them.
“And because Master has a monopoly on these items,” Kagero opted to continue for Kasara. “That makes the DCA refer to her whenever they needed to know the exact price for those items. And, being that she took advantage of the loopholes in the merchant business, Hikari and the DCA struck up a deal. For every item the adventurers find and turn to them, the DCA pay a fee to Hikari to figure out a pricing. Of course, that goes on forever, considering the ups and downs of the economy.”
“T-That’s…” Kudo could not even find the words to explain how exaggeratingly ridiculous that sounded.
“That’s why they consider her a tyrant over there, as well,” Kagero teased with a smirk.
“How mean,” Hikari took it to heart, playfully putting on a sad frown. “I’m not that terrible.”
“Tell that to the DCA which you exploited,” Kasara snapped with a cool face.
“Boo~” Hikari pouted, pursing her lips as she turned her head away from them.
No matter how cute she acted, the two teenagers were left shaking in their boots.
“Y-Your mother is really scary…” Hinota almost stuttered, nearly turning blue.
“And you kicked her in the face…” Kudo snapped, feeling the same way.
Hinota apologized, and truly thanked her within her heart of hearts, with all the gratitude she held inside for her understanding of the last incident.
The DCA is no small group. It’s a large international organization recognized the world over to have control over the dungeons. To have them on their knees and paying her for all the items, not even the prideful Hinota Flamver would mess around with her.
“Kasara…” Kagero whispered to Kasara’s ear. “Don’t you think we might have frightened her a little?”
“Hinota is the type to learn her mistakes by fully knowing what Master is capable of. If she doesn’t have a clear picture of how powerful she truly is, she’ll make another incident occur.”
“That… might be true,” Kagero paused for a moment. “But I think we managed to scare Kudo as well.”
“That is Master’s own problem.”
Deciding to sweep that kind of problem under the rug, Kasara closed her eyes and pretended that it wasn’t her fault. Kagero showed an awkward smile as he returned to his seat, nearly starting to sweat from the possible problems to occur for Hikari.
A bit of time passed by, and the Valiant Steed was making great progress compared to any kind of horse carriage there is in the world. However, inside the room, it has grown quiet. Kasara and Kagero were getting their rest, both of their eyes closed to catch up on sleep thanks to their work lately. Hikari was enjoying her drink as usual, and of course, it was the hard kind of liquor usually reserved for late at night as if it was just some casual drink.
Kudo and Hinota were at a slight disadvantage. Since they’re usually the leaders in their party, they had no problem initiating a conversation, or follow a conversation with a member of their party.
But this time, they were the ones at the lowest levels—the newbies in the room full of veteran adventurers. It was hard for them to initiate a conversation without feeling like they would bother them.
Especially Hinota. With her sister’s eyes closed, she believed that if she spoke, she would rudely awaken her dear sister. She doesn’t give a rat’s ass about Kagero, but she wouldn’t dare bother her dear sister with her prattle. Seeing that Hinota awkwardly had her head down, both eyes darting around, it was up to Kudo to bring up more conversations.
Though he preferred to stay quiet, his promise to be more social took over his fear.
He spotted the two other members beside them—the crafters, Fitty and Par. Unlike the vassals who were resting, the two had preoccupied their minds with some bit of work. Par was writing quietly on her notepad, which he was guessing was actually a list of materials needed.
Fitty was fiddling around with his inventory screen—soundlessly, of course. He couldn’t make out the pictures, but he was sure that he was sorting the items within his inventory as he continues to make folders within his Magic Bag X.
Seeing that the two were active, he figured that he should start a conversation here and now.
“…Par, Fitty, what are you guys going to do in La Ruinda?”
He paused for a moment, but he assured himself that it was just a curious question, but it ultimately made the two vassals open their eyes upon hearing. Apparently, they have really good senses.
Hikari herself, however, looked on with a smile on her lips as always, taking a sip of her drink while Shokan herself remained quiet as ever.
“Oh, you curious?” Par was the first to answer. “We’re going to get some materials that we’ve run fresh out of.”
“Oh, so you’re collecting some materials?” Kudo followed up, which brought Hinota enough courage to act.
“You two are crafters, right? You two must be at such a high level.”
“Hehe~ High level… that’s pointless since we’ve already reached the maximum.”
Kudo expected some light conversation, but this topic suddenly went out of control in a hurry.
“M-Maximum, you say…?” Even Hinota was at a loss for how she said it.
“Just like she said,” Fitty answered, looking back as soon as he was finished. “We’ve already reached the maximum levels of our Crafting Skills.”
“Wha…?!” Kudo became shocked.
“Ah…” Hinota was left gaping.
Seeing the two ‘newbies’ faces, the two vassals shared a mischievous smirk. Hikari herself hid her smirk behind her cup while Shokan stifles a small giggle. The adults were delectably enjoying their amazed reactions.
“Y-You two reached the maximum… you mean you got level 100 in a skill?” Kudo had to be sure about this. Seeing Par nod her head enthusiastically, Kudo was left gaping as well.
“It’s not that great,” Fitty furrowed his brows. “So don’t get impressed every single time!”
“Aw, come on, Fitty! Let them be shocked! It’s so funny!”
“Damn it, you gigantic woman. Learn to control yourself.”
The two shared their banter together as always, leaving the two newbies still with a shocked expression.
“S-So you reached level one hundred in Blacksmithing, then?” Kudo figured that, as a smither, she would have maxed that certain skill out.
Kudo could no longer hold his bearings. The moment she admitted that she has maxed 3 Crafting skills, he knew now that Par was no simple adventurer crafter.
“T-That’s impossible!” Hinota, being the most conscious of the two, shouted her disbelief. “You can’t have more than one Crafting skill, right, Kudo?”
However, she referred to Kudo for her question. Even if she read the guidebook herself, she still needed some confirmation from Kudo’s wisdom.
“…It’s not impossible.”
“Eh…?” Hinota was left wide-eyed.
“An adventurer normally doesn’t choose more than one Crafting Skill. The reason why is because once you take your second Crafting skill, leveling that skill, along with our first skill you’ve chosen, will drastically decrease in proficiency speed. Basically, if you take more than one, it will take you that much longer to raise even one skill. Then, imagine raising another skill after that. The costs of buying the materials, and the chance of losing those materials from failed crafting, would result in millions of jib loss. Adventurers shouldn’t take more than one Crafting skill—being that they take more time and money to raise.”
It was like the two adventurers were back in the old days during their journey in Peranim. After Kudo explained the rationality of choosing one Crafting skill, it makes Par’s claim of reaching maximum of three Crafting Skills practically impossible.
“Then…” Hinota would like to say that Par was just bluffing to impress them, but she knew that, being in the Alpha Heart, they wouldn’t lie for no reason.
She looked back at Par, shooting an enthusiastic smile with her bright teeth.
“Oh, Par also raised three skills to the max. Tell ‘em, Fitty!”
“Oh, come off it!”
Par has grappled Fitty’s neck with her arm, nestling Fitty’s head to her voluptuous chest once more as Fitty threw a tantrum. Hinota was once again amazed at her claim.
“F-Fitty maxed three skills, too?!” Kudo asked, wondering how many times must he be impressed for this day to be over.
“Hehe, and guess what?” Par continued, still grappling onto Fitty with a non-hostile smile. “Fitty here isn’t your ordinary crafter—He created his own Crafting Skill to boot!”
Kudo and Hinota’s brains have stopped functioning for a moment.
“Hey! Don’t say stuff like that for no reason!”
“Aw, Fitty, don’t be shy!”
Fitty quickly released himself from Par’s embrace, getting him to flutter his ears in annoyance and flipping his tail about in a huff.
“A skill?! He created his own skill?!”
“W-Which one is it?!”
Both Kudo and Hinota asked purely to feed their curiosity.
“He created the Enchanting Skill,” Par answered instead. “He sold the patent to Hikari the moment he did, because he just doesn’t want to handle being the superstar~”
“Who wants to be crowded by some lowly adventurers every day!? Now stop answering my questions!”
“Aw, you wanna answer instead?”
“N-No! J-Just stop telling them about me!”
The two were as rowdy as ever, with Par smirking all the way to her cheeks while Fitty continued to raise a fuss, no longer caring about the vassal’s need for sleep, though they were already awake and amused by this anyways.
“Enchanting… you created the Enchanting skill?! For real?!” Hinota, against her own judgment, closed up on Fitty with a surprised and curious look. Her slanted eyes, reminding Fitty of Kasara’s own eyes, shrank back a little.
“Incredible… that’s incredible! So I’m seeing the guy who created my crafting skill live and in person!”
Hinota returned to her seat, but not before giving off a childlike wonder of meeting an actual celebrity who created her Crafting Skill.
“Kudo! Did you knew this?!”
“I didn’t! I never thought that Fitty have created it! That’s amazing!”
Kudo was caught up by Hinota’s excitement, since the two owed so much of their finances to the rare enchanting skill.
“Oh, so Hinota has it, huh? How is it?” Par became curious herself as she asked “Didya use it well?”
“I did!” Hinota answered with fervor. “If it wasn’t for that, we would have such a hard time back in Peranim! I’m still surprised that nobody else has chosen such a handy Crafting skill in there.”
Speaking her praises, Fitty back in Par’s side cleared his throat a little, everyone in the room noticing his cheeks were slightly red.
“Hehe, he likes it when he’s praised~”
“N-No, I do not!”
Fitty snapped back the moment Par noticed it.
“Then, that means you maxed not only Enchanting, but also Cooking and Alchemy, right?”
Hinota went and asked again, getting Fitty somewhat surprised.
“Y-Yeah… it’s not a big deal.”
“It’s a very big deal!” Hinota responded loudly, surprising Fitty’s sensitive hearing.
“Hinota, you need him to show you some techniques! Who knows what you could learn?!” Kudo opted to use this chance to increase Hinota’s repertoire of enchanting techniques, causing Hinota to nod her head vigorously.
“Fitty, can you teach me what you can? I would really like to learn more about Enchanting!”
Feeling Hinota’s unending excitement to learn, Fitty was left with no other option other than to agree.
Especially since he received a glint from Kasara’s glare.
“A-Alright!” Feeling his hair stand on end, he furrowed his eyes as he pointed at Hinota. “But I won’t be soft! You better not let up!”
The conversation Kudo planned didn’t quite turn out as planned, but at the least, the room was lively again after Hinota became Fitty’s student, teaching her his own personal techniques on Enchanting.
Right as soon as Fitty taught her his personal techniques, a loud noise alerted the group, coming from the speakers around the room.
“La Ruinda is in sight!” The voice, belonging to the high-pitched Chui, shouted before making another noise as the speakers turned off.
Kudo and Hinota could not hold in their excitement as they pushed their faces up against the window glass to spot out the country.
The avian finally descended after a short flight—which, comparing the distance between the countries, was supposed to be an arduous flight—landing in one of the cities, the capital of La Ruinda: Portmin.
They landed at the airport of the city, where the avian met with no incident as usual, and the doors opened up to show the group coming out of the room in style.
It was there that they met the inhabitants.
“Welcome to our glorious state, Miss Hikari Valkyria!”
A loud and somewhat enthusiastic yell rang out and—Pop! Pop!—confetti were blown from their poppers. They noticed a group of people holding various signs saying ‘Welcome!’ and ‘We’re glad to have you here!’, each having a smile on their faces. There weren’t that much of them, but it left an impression on the teenagers.
“I see that you have improved your butt-kissing techniques, Randalf. I’m impressed.”
Hikari smirked, not out of scorn, but because this was how she normally interacted with him.
“Such kind words, Miss Valkyria. I am not deserving of them.”
The ringleader of the welcoming walked out of the group of well-dressed citizens, taking the somewhat compliment with pride. The man himself was big—a giant mass of muscles that seem to be ready to rip off the seams of his velvet suit. His white furry ears twitched as he rubbed his hands together with a fangy smile—one that seemed similar to that of a businessman.
“Now, please excuse my rudeness, but I would love to see the fabled son of the mighty Valkyria family! Might I ask to see him personally for myself?”
The man, a big beastman of a rare white tiger race, began to scan with his ruby eyes to spot out the certain individual. It was then, after a quick look, he spotted another azure-haired person
“Ah, could my eyes deceive me…?! Could he actually be?!” Randalf’s eyes widened, his ruby eyes glistening as he locked right onto Kudo which got him to tense up his muscles.
Hikari gently placed her hand on top of his shoulder to help him relax.
“That’s right,” Hikari answered with a smile. “This boy here is my darling son. His name is Kudo.”
As if replicating a roar, Randalf howled to the sky as soon as he heard that. It brought Kudo and Hinota to the point of reacting strongly to it by nearly putting their hands near their bags to bring out their weapons.
“This guy is always so loud…” Fitty, being the most sensitive in hearing, never liked Randalf for his loud voice.
“Hehe, what can you do?” Par chuckled to herself, already used to the yelling.
“Such elation! Such news! To think that Hikari Valkyria would find her son after all this time…! I feel so exulted for you, Miss Valkyria!”
He waved his arms around which made the others in their suits clap their hands from the news. Kudo was only left in awe of this turnabout as Hikari cleared her throat.
“We can leave the celebrations for another time,” Hikari figured to continue the conversation. “For now, I wish to go to our hotel to rest.”
“Yes! Yes! Of course! Please, right this way!” Randalf moved his arms to point at the direction to the streets. “I already have an excellent Ame waiting for all of you!”
“As expected of you, Randalf. You know exactly what I want.”
“Of course, Miss Valkyria. I have worked with you for many years now, after all,” The beastman’s lips curled into a smile, one that seemed to sparkle harmoniously with the sunlight.
The Alpha Heart group went ahead, making the group of well-dressed citizens walk to follow them. During this, Kudo looked up to Hikari.
“I-Is that…?” Kudo wanted to ask who the loud beastman was.
“Right,” Hikari answered quickly. “He’s the friend that I wanted to introduce you to. His name is Randalf. He’s a merchant beyond all reasoning. Though he can’t beat my maids, when it comes to dealing with items which even I can’t get a hold of, he’s the kind of guy to call. See, he’s got these sticky fingers that catch rare items only. Though he seems shady, which he is, he’s actually a nice guy who has a knack for words. So don’t get swindled by him.”
“Right…” Kudo nodded which got Hikari to stare at Hinota.
“I’m counting on you, Hinota.”
“O-Okay…” Hinota could understand what she meant which is to protect Kudo from any of his deals.