Hour Empty Child
“I am so glad that you are here with us today, Miss Valkyria!” Randalf, the white tiger beastman, shouted as he walked along with his associates as they lead the Alpha Heart group through the city of Portmin.
Once they left the airport, the teenagers were amazed at the differences between the cities. Unlike Triun, it had a simple theme, where the buildings weren’t as high as the skyscrapers, but they were big enough to house 3 stories. The stores strewn about made the atmosphere around the town lively as the citizens made themselves known by scurrying across the clean streets.
The houses were made out of brown-wood materials, but apparently, according to Randalf, the wood was actually made out of the rare Wurtzite wood which was used several decades ago to create these buildings. Similar to stone, the wood was created to have the sense of touching wood when feeling it with your hands, but it cannot be burned by fire, or destroyed as easily as wood. An excellent material when you need a simplistic design for a home.
“Wow…” Hearing all of this from Randalf himself as he explained the customs of the country intrigued both Kudo and Hinota, Kudo left in awe while Hinota admired it all silently.
“I’m so proud that our lovely city is making such a vast impression on your son. As a citizen, it brings me nothing but pure joy,” Randalf spoke with pride swelling in his chest.
“Hehe, take it easy, Randalf,” Hikari explained with a smile. “My son here has been raised in Peranim all his life. He never stepped foot in another country in Lerabelum other than Roprase.”
“My word! To be in such a country all your life… Ah, I apologize. I don’t mean to insult it. It’s just that… it’s so traditional…”
“You’ve been there before, haven’t you?” Hikari asked, leaving Randalf to raise his head.
“Yes, I have. Some of the rare items I found come from Peranim. However, they do not even have electricity nor even proper transportation. I’m afraid I just can’t ‘rough’ it over there, being born and bred here in this luxurious nation.”
“That is why these adventurers have grown tough,” Hikari smirked, showing a courageous flaunt.
“That, I do not disagree,” Randalf smirked.
Seeing the two old friends discussing with one another, Kudo was left with nothing to say but to leave a wry chuckle. Meanwhile, Hinota eyed at Kasara who continued to glare ahead of herself.
“Um… Dear sister?” She finally asked after much hesitation.
“Yes?” Kasara, contrary to her usual look, turned back and showed her smile to her sister.
“Where are we going?”
“We’re heading to an inn, or at least, to what’s called a hotel. It’s called the Caravan’s Rest’.”
She answered with a smile, but then she returned to her usual glaring gaze ahead as she is finished with her answer.
(Could she… not want me to bother her?)
The reason why Hinota asked wasn’t that she has forgotten what Hikari said before the departed. She asked because she wanted to make at least some decent conversation. Like Kudo, she tried to show confidence by asking her a common question, hoping that it would stem a conversation, however, Kasara didn’t continue the topic further, making Hinota drop it to consider her feelings.
As she struggled over this, Rndalf suddenly shouted and pointed forward.
“Here we are! Your peaceful abode!” Randalf stopped which made the group stop as well where the streets crossed into an intersection of the city. What they saw was a building that was made out of cream-colored Wurtzite Wood.
The building was as large as a tower itself, though the size is lower than that of the skyscraper in Roprase. The sign ‘Caravan’s Rest’ made it perfectly clear that it was a sort of resort for those who are weary from their travels. There were banners and signs that represented their name and their prices, and Knights gathered in front of the entrance to safeguard it.
“The Caravan’s Rest is our most greatest resort,” Randalf explained. “Their services are far greater than that of any five-star hotel. Of course, the price to rest even one night in there would practically melt your face off, but of course, for our Miss Valkyria, such a price is nothing for her.”
“You got that right.”
As if to further stroke her own ego, Hikari agreed with him which made the group following behind her to spin their eyes in unison.
“She’s just as bad as you, Hinota.”
“I-I’m not that bad!”
Hinota blushed to her cheeks and snapped back at Kudo’s comment as they entered inside the glass doors that opened seamlessly for them.
The inside was nothing compared to the warm atmosphere of the city. The inside was pleasantly cool, like in the Adventurer’s Hub, but other than that, the entire interior design is completely different than what they expected.
The walls were made of blinding gold-color, the floors were smooth and pristine brown marble, and there were pillars that supported the roof which reflects one’s own image by looking at its sparkly clean marble. People filled out the entire place, each in their own world as they sat in the luxurious couches and used exquisite tables for their own meetings between each other.
This was only the lobby of the hotel.
“Now then, I shall see that you all get your reservations in order. Please, go ahead and do what you like,” Randalf bowed his head as well as his other associates before they left the group to head further into the lobby.
Kudo was not even surprised anymore. His breath left him, but he wasn’t really surprised at the majesty. After having lived in the mansion for several months, he was used to such luxury.
“So, how do you like the city, Kudo, Hinota?” Hikari asked the two which left them silent for a moment, taking everything in as the two looked back at her.
“It’s amazing…” Kudo commented.
“C-Can we really stay in this pricey hotel?” Hinota asked in concern.
“Hahaha!” Hikari heartily laughed. “Don’t worry about a single thing. Just live here as much as you like and use whatever you like. It’s on me.”
Hikari flashed a sparkling smile which left the teenagers in awe once again. Left with their own devices, Kudo and Hinota took a stroll in the hotel for their own viewing experience.
The lavish halls and the pristine decorations were captivating, however, no matter how luxurious they were living now, they felt somewhat bored…
“Mmh, it’s kinda mundane around here,” Hinota mentioned which got Kudo to nod his head in response.
“Yeah. I already got used to all this back at the mansion.”
“So, you really got used to things, huh…?” Hinota said, being taken aback by his words.
“Yeah… Mmh, do you wanna hang outside?” Kudo offered which Hinota replied.
“That’s better than chilling here doin’ nothing,” She agreed with a smile.
Walking around the hallways and reaching back to the lobby, right near the entrance there were the other Alpha Heart members without the leader.
“Oh, everyone, where are you all going?” Kudo asked which prompted the vassals and the crafters to turn back.
“We’re going to help Fitty and Par to collect some materials. We’re going to hunt some fields around Portmin to collect them.”
“Oh, right,” Kudo looked up as he recalled. “That’s the reason they’re here…”
“Right,” Par answered with a smile, preparing her Magic Bag in her holster. “So we’re going to go hunt.”
Par had her usual black apron on herself, but she wore metal gauntlets and a breastplate underneath her apron, with sabatons and a single shoulder pad to boot. She seemed to be wearing a metal armor version of a blacksmith’s uniform. She had double-sided axe holstered to her back.
Fitty, who finished his preparations on his inventory, looked back as he wore a tight silver shirt that showed the toneness of his torso, with baggy brown pants. Wearing gloves that reached up to his forearm, he wore his light armor with a sense of style. In several holsters on his hips, he carried several thin needles.
“C-Considering that you guys got level 100 on three crafting skills,” Hinota almost couldn’t believe what she just said. “That means that you aren’t very high level when it comes to fighting, right?”
“That’s about right,” Par answered with a smirk. “Though, we ain’t your average crafters. We can take down a boss or two.”
“It’s just that while we’re collecting, we’ll get attacked by other monsters in the vicinity, so we asked Kagero and Kasara to cover for us,” Fitty said as he crossed his arms.
“I see… Mr. Fitty.”
“Hah, what…?” Fitty decided to drop the name and asked with a light downcast look.
“You said that you sold the… ‘patent’ of the Enchantig skill to master… what does that mean?”
Hinota remembered that he sold something to Hikari, thus making him unnoticeable by the others. Other than wondering what patent means, she was curious as to why he wouldn’t want o be famous.
Fitty looked back with a single raised brow, and then closed his eyes.
“I didn’t want to handle all that troublesome fame crap, so I sold it to Master.”
“S-So you really sold it to Mother…?” Kudo was left shocked, and Hinota was left wide-eyed.
“Well, let me rephrase,” Figuring that his explanation wasn’t good enough, Par intercepted. “Fitty sold the rights of discovering a whole new Crafting skill to Hikari, giving her the fame of making it herself, even though she doesn’t use it. And in return, all the grant money she would receive would go to Fitty for his crafting. That way, Hikari’s fame would go further upwards while Fitty can reap the benefits for himself.”
“Don’t make me sound like some scumbag!” Fitty heard the last few words and misinterpreted her meaning.
“In the end, you just want the money to continue with your crafting. That’s not scummy, that just being proficient.”
Par’s answer left Fitty with blushed cheeks, looking away with gritted teeth and a grunt to go afterwards. Hinota was left wide-eyed again after seeing the reason, leaving a bigger impression of Fitty onto her mind.
“Whoa… Hinota, you’re learning from such an awesome guy!” Kudo praised as he looked back to Hinota with a big smile.
“Yeah!” Hinota answered back.
This made Fitty lower his head between his shoulders, his face now blushing as the other members of the Alpha Heart look back at him with a snide smile.
“Oh,” Kudo realized what they were going to do and asked: “Can we come with you? We were getting bored here.”
The four looked back at Kudo with a slight surprise. Kagero and Kasara looked back at each other, giving a concerned glance before turning to face them.
“Well, the area around us is pretty tough. You sure you wanna join?” Kagero asked which made Kudo nod.
“We want to see how an expert adventurer’s party works! Please, let us join!”
“Dear sister,” Hinota asked Kasara. “We promise we won’t get in the way. We’ll help however we can. We can dismantle the monsters if that’s possible. So, can we…?”
Looking up at her with her glittering slanted eyes, Kasara flinched, but only visible to Kagero, as she struggled to get over such a pleading face.
“It’s not as though I think that you would get in the way…but, Kagero…”
“Don’t ask me.”
Seeing Kasara was about to hand the rejection to Kagero, he knew what she was aiming for and rejected her himself. Seeing Kasara give another death glare to the smiling Kagero made Hinota furrow her brows.
(Why does she have to ask him?) Hinota thought bitterly. Seeing her sister asking him was like as if she needed his permission. It filled her with such rage that it almost made her shake.
“Of course, they should come!”
The piercing yell from the most prominent of guildmasters reverberated, catching everyone’s attention as they see Hikari and Shokan walking up to them, apparently finished with their business.
“Mother!” Seeing Hikari coming in, Kudo responded with a gleeful expression of getting invited.
“Young and promising, adventurers like them should watch us veterans for experience. There’s more than just collecting points to level up, as they say.”
Hikari, giving her own lecture, said with crossed arms and a haughty smile which left the other adults to start sweating.
“T-That’s…” Kasara seemed muddled over Hikari’s constant interference in trying to be responsible.
“Wait… us…?” Kudo caught on her wording and widened his eyes. “Are you going to hunt too?!”
“Of course! What else is there to do when there is no business left?” Hikari answered it was obvious.
“N-Nothing, but…” Kudo was left in stupor, widening his eyes as his expectations ran high in his mind.
“T-Then, we can go?” Hinota made sure to ask.
“Of course,” Hikari answered with a smirk. “Now, let’s go on and hunt some game. I needed to stretch my legs anyways. Shokan.”
With a shout of her name and a nod, Hikari gave a wordless order to Shokan who immediately bowed upon being called, getting her to get back where they came from to prepare for her leaving.
“…Hah, yes, Master.”
A sigh escaping her lips, Kasara felt exhausted just dealing with her. However, that sigh of hers was caught by not only Hinota, but also Kudo after much observation.
(Kasara…) Kudo knew that something was happening with Kasara since Hinota joined up, but another matter took precedence as well. (Still, I wonder what Mom is like when she’s hunting…?)
His throat ran dry from his imagination.
The fields on the west side of Portmin was strangely similar to that of a jungle. Giant thick threes roamed the field, covering the sky above with extreme foliage of strange purple. These were the Wurtzite trees. Trees with thick wood that is similar to that of bricks.
Their trunks coiled the ground, making traveling afoot treacherous, and the foliage blinds their eyes from the bluish sky. However, for adventurers, such scenery was breathtaking.
The only thing that would be dangerous would be the monsters. There are a variety of monsters living in jungles, and in jungles, the monsters often hunt each other in ways to survive, unlike in ordinary forests where the monsters form packs to survive.
These surviving monsters, the top of the food chain, are powerful, their levels high thanks to their constant hunting of the weaker prey. One in particular, the Jungle Cat, is the most vicious. Unlike its name suggests, their appearances were as black as ebony, making them perfect hunters in the night where the foliage makes it difficult to see anything clearly.
The jungle cat’s fur is as sharp and tough as metal. One tuft of it is able to protect oneself from a powerful blade of a certain level. So defeating a Jungle Cat is just as incredible as they not only run at great speed, but also boasts incredible defense and offense from their fangs and claws.
The Jungle Cat, according to the adventurers in Portmin, is the king of the Wurtzite Jungle.
“These things are quite slippery…” Hikari commented, not breaking a single sweat as her sabaton’s cover was drenched in blood as it was right on top of the 3 meter sized Jungle Cat, its mouth foaming and its eyes solid white.
It wasn’t just one—there was another jungle cat stuck to the actual Wurtzite tree with another blade pierced in its belly, its blood running down the wood like a cascading waterfall. There was also another one hanging on top of a branch of a nearby tree like an ornament.
In short, there were multiple Jungle cat carcasses lying just about everywhere. The one standing between them all at the center was none other than Hikari herself.
Hikari didn’t wear her usual black clothing—she was fully adorned in her own armor. Her armor resembled that of a shining knight, its metal shining pure white underneath the available sunlight. Her armor was thin, as if it was a battle suit more than anything. Her sabatons, gauntlets, and shoulder pads had emerald lines running down them and the center of her armor had several markers that resembled that of ancient characters.
Her sword, the one she held in her right hand, was a single longsword that was colored completely white, blood covering the pure white blade as if it has been corrupted. The most impressive of all was her shield on her left arm. Her pure white shield was diamond shaped that covered her whole forearm, and had a glowing jade jewel at its center with the same color lines stemming both upwards and downwards. One could see lights moving within that jewel if you look closely enough.
Hikari gave out a sigh as she holstered her sword, and picked up the Jungle Cat underneath her sabaton up by the neck.
“Yo, Par, Fitty, you need this, right?” Hikari said in a nonchalant manner, turning back to the two crafters coming for her.
“Yes, Ma’am!” Par answered with a smile similar to that of a greedy merchant.
“As usual, you never hold back,” Fitty showed a slight guilty expression to the cats she held without mercy.
“T-That was incredible…”
Kudo could only remain in awe as both Kudo and Hinota stood by each other, each carrying several of their Magic Bags as they are the ‘carriers’ for their little job.
It was obvious that the members would not let the teenagers fight with the monsters as their levels were about a hundred levels lower than even the weaker monsters. It’s not as though they can’t do anything to help them—they have at least a job to do.
“Kudo, Hinota, hurry and come help!”
“ “Y-Yes!” ”
Hearing their master’s cry, Kudo and Hinota quickly ran out in haste after giving their unified reply. They headed towards the jungle cat, each grabbing a knife out of their inventories to begin their job of dismantling the monsters to give to the crafters.
It was a minuscule job, however, the crafters needed help since the jungle cat’s skin was tough as metal, so cutting it in a special way requires moving the heavy body, so an aide or two is preferable.
As the two began to dig deep into the jungle cat’s flesh, Kasara and Kagero returned to their site, their bodies slightly covered in dirt and blood, though the blood is not their own.
“Oh, welcome back,” Hikari noticed them coming in. “How was the hunt?”
“It was pleasing. We got some nice loot to sell.”
Kasara answered with a pleased smile, but it left another crafter nearly flinching.
“J-Just so you know, Kasara, you can’t keep selling that item with such a high price!”
Par immediately stood up, her breasts jiggled as she did, after dismantling the body with expertise.
“It’s not my fault that the economy on materials is a mess. I’m just putting the actual price.”
“Your prices are absurd, Kasara! At least think about the customers!” Par groaned, grinding her teeth together in reluctance to sell her items later.
Seeing the adult adventurers of the guild hunt themselves, Kudo and Hinota were left in awe. These were the adventurers of Alpha Heart, one of the strongest guilds in Roprase. The master, who faced a powerful monster of the area, barely even broke a sweat after defeating several of them with ease.
“Then, we’ll keep hunting over here. Master, you handle things here, right?” Kagero asked which got Hikari to move her sword over her shoulder.
“Yeah,” Hikari answered. “I’ll probably finish in about half an hour, so make sure you get here before we move to the next part.”
“Understood,” Kasara nodded. “Then, we’ll be going.”
As per her order, Kasara and Kagero left back to where they came from, this time taking another direction apart as Hikari stayed behind.
Meanwhile, Kudo and Hinota looked at them from the side as they dismantled the very powerful monster with star-struck eyes.
“T-They’re incredible, aren’t they?”
Kudo and Hinota conversed as the other adults did their work. Kudo turned to Hinota to see her reaction, but instead, he spots her staring at someone, who he could guess was her sister leaving them.
“…Hinota, do you want to talk to Kasara?”
Hinota flinched and turned to Kudo who flashed a small smile. Knowing that he completely read her mind, she resigned and agreed.
“Then, why not just go ahead?”
“T-That’s… I don’t want to bother her while she’s working…” Hinota said, though her slanted eyes told Kudo that it was an excuse. “And she doesn’t seem very pleased in talking with me, either. She didn’t even want me to come with her…”
Hinota’s tone dampens, looking down at the ground as her spirit sounded weaker. Seeing her in such a state brought Kudo to feel a stinging pain in his chest.
“I don’t think that’s true,” Kudo’s tone deepened which got her to look up to Kudo. “I know more than anyone that she likes to talk about you. That’s why, I think you should talk to her. Spend time with her.”
Kudo spoke gently, revealing a sweet smile. Hinota listened intently, her sight focused on him.
“I’ll stay here with Mom and dismantle the stuff here. You go and stay with Kasara.”
Kudo assured her, and urged her to go. Her heart quickening, Hinota flashed a smile before standing up. She turned to Kudo and gave him a powerful nod as she ran back to the side where Kasara and Kagero left.