Hour Empty Child
Deep within the vast jungle, the humid air flowing against their damp skins, Kasara and Kagero walked down the available path down through the forested area, keeping an eye out on the monsters.
“To think that Hinota would come here. That’s quite a shock.”
Kagero started his conversation on his own, looking up at the sky with a passive smile. Kasara remained quiet, her steely gaze on the ground after hearing about her sister again.
“She has a lot of attitude. Just like a certain someone…”
Peering at her side, Kagero made a light joke, but it fell on deaf ears as she continued to gaze at the ground with no change in her expression.
“…You know, she seemed like she was hurt a little from how you acted.”
“…What do you mean?” Finally Kasara answered, but she did not face him and continued walking forward.
“I mean what I said,” Kagero grew adamant. “She seemed like she’s catching on your drift on not wanting to see her. She’s become very perceptive, you know.”
“…I don’t need you to tell me that,” Kasara grumbled, a deeper scowl on her face directing it at Kagero.
It was clearly affecting her, but Kagero chuckled rather than buckling to her gaze.
“You know there’s nothing wrong with talking to her.”
Kagero offered with a smile. Kasara quickly turn her head, facing the other way while also giving out a small ‘hmph’ sound.
“What kind of pride do you have for you to keep it like that?” Kagero scratched his cheek after seeing her reaction.
In his mind, it seemed like Kasara still wants to show the image of a big sister to Hinota. After all these years of being separated, it was obvious that Hinota missed her sister, but to Kasara, she would have liked it if she could have been separated a little more. But he knew that it was only because she was not ready to meet her yet.
“Kasara, someday, you’re going to have to do this. No matter how old she gets, Hinota will not stop loving you. So the best thing to do is to at least make her feel welcome here.”
Kagero gave his lecture, his gaze turning solemn at Kasara who remained silent for a moment.
“…I said that I don’t need you to tell me that.”
“It felt like you did. Call it a husband’s intuition,” Kagero flashed his bright smile.
“Yeah, right…” Kasara wouldn’t even believe a word of that as she let out an exasperated sigh. However, in her heart, she knew that he was right.
A long time has passed, and yet Hinota is still so affectionate with her. It was too much to bear for her. Especially for after what she did to her back at the manor years ago…
A sudden shriek permeated the air, shocking the two veterans walking. It wouldn’t have surprised them that badly since they were experts, however, the owner of that voice sounded familiar to them.
Instantly realizing who it was without needing Kagero to say it, Kasara dashed to where the source of the shriek was in such speed that it left the air itself split apart, a wave of air bursting right on Kagero’s face, his black hair flowing behind him as the force was enough to call itself a gale.
Giving himself a smirk, Kagero did the same—he dashed forward with the same speed, repeating the gale once before.
Seeing the area around her whipping past like being the inside of an Ame, Kasara ran, her heart quickening and sweat trickling down her bare skin as she used her slanted eyes to scan the area in record speed. Her high Intelligence stat is enough to make her record everything even if it’s just for a nanosecond. It was then that she finally spotted her.
Sparks flew out of the metal blade being grinded by a pair of fangs. The force was enough to push away the girl holding the blade and fell right on her bottom.
Feeling the hard ground against her butt, Hinota grimaced. She looked up in a hurry and noticed the giant mouth heading for her. She jumped away before the mouth could swallow her up, and it landed right where she was, piercing the ground with giant white fangs.
Taking a few small steps backward, she looked to see the adversary. A coiling body that wrapped itself around the Wurtzite tree, and managing to catch up to Hinota with its long reach. Taking itself out of the ground, it managed to take a bit of the ground with it until it shook its head violently, releasing the ground in bits and pieces as it showed itself.
It has sharp eyes as well as a slithering split-up tongue. The snake-like creature that had the width of a human torso raised its head and peered right at the delicious red-headed pray.
“Damn, this thing is strong… I can’t even make a dent!” Hinota grumbled as she took her position with her blade by her side.
She has been in battle with the snake for some time now after separating with the others. She only wanted to follow her sister, but the snake followed her noticing that she was separated from Hikari, the strongest enemy it could face. The snake alone was too high in level for her to handle.
She knew that the snake had to be at least a hundred levels above her. Her equipment has already been reduced in durability. She was lucky that it wasn’t a poisonous snake as she already had small scratches on her body here and there. As the snake moved in closer, Hinota prepared herself for the worst.
Suddenly, a voice shouted out a name, which upon casting, something flew right past Hinota and headed straight towards the snake. The snake cried out in pain as the small sphere made of steaming water hit it right at its body, its scaly face blistering from the burn.
The snake tried to shake it off, but it didn’t realize that it was already melting apart. The face, nostril, the fangs, and even the bone itself—everything from its head is melting away.
Bits and pieces of the scaly skin left from the snake fell to the ground, its body finally falling over from the tree and no longer capable of breathing.
Hinota was left in shock. A single attack killed the giant overpowered snake, and it was an incredibly hot skill that literally melted its face right off. However, Hinota was more surprised at the recipient of that skill.
Hinota turned, finally seeing the one she has been looking for who ran towards her. Kasara shouted, a look of worry marking her face as she ran with sweat trickling down her forehead and cheek, small breaths escaping from her fine lips.
“Are you okay?” Kasara asked as if it was her only reason for looking so out of breath.
“D-Dear sister…” A look of awe first came to her, then a look of remorse. “I-I’m sorry for disturbing you like this…”
Hinota flinched from hearing Kasara shout so suddenly, similarly to the scolding she received alongside Kudo back at the mansion. She looked up, seeing Kasara’s face distort into anger, her glaring eyes becoming more fiercer.
“Don’t think that I didn’t wanted to bother protecting my own little sister!”
Though it should be obvious that this would be her answer, it still left Hinota in awe. As the moment between them cooled down, the awkward atmosphere returned.
“…Don’t stray too far from the others,”Kasara returned to her cold gaze, her eyes darting around to notice someone missing. “Where’s Kudo?”
“H-He’s back with Master Hikari, Par, and Fitty. He… I thought I could help you out on dismantling here…”
Hinota’s tone was nothing like her usual demeanor. It was low and slightly more formal, as if she was back at the manor. Kasara felt a twinge of pain stinging her heart from seeing her act this way, and looked away.
“I see,” She answered briskly. “Then you better head back—”
“U-Umm, Dear Sister!”
Before Kasara could coldly send her away, Hinota’s sudden shout brought her to turn back around, a look of surprise on her face.
“Dear Sister…” Hinota breathed in slowly, then exhaled. “Dear Sister, do you… dislike me? Did you not wanted me to come here? Am I… a bother being here?”
Hinota asked the questions she held fear within her heart to ask. For her, it would be drastically dreadful if she were to answer them so easily by saying ‘yes’. She knew that Kasara had better things to do than to tend to her sister. That’s what she believes in, at least.
“What…” Kasara was so stunned by this question that it left her staggering. “Of course not. I…”
“Then, why did you look like you didn’t want me to come here? Am I not a bother, truly?”
Kasara’s heart stung worse after hearing that. She never expected for her little sister to be so powerfully aware of her surroundings, and noticed the expressions on her face. She looked back, as if to try to hide her face as it glowed red from the blush.
“T-That’s not it… I…” Kasara struggled to even let the words out. “The only reason why I didn’t want you to come was… that…”
Even if Kasara is an experienced adventurer, it has been many years since she acted like a true big sister. Surely, back at the mansion, she had just scolded her, but it was under special circumstances. Now, she had to at least let out her true feelings.
“…I thought that you hated me.”
“H-Hated you?” Hinota tilted her head at such a strange word to say to her sister.
“Yes… I mean, you have to be, right?” Kasara figured that it was an obvious conclusion. “I left you behind all those years ago because I couldn’t handle being in that household anymore. I left you behind, all alone with nobody but a scarce amount of people caring you. I…”
Kasara’s throat clogged up. Her eyes were on a verge of tears, but she held them back. However, her shoulders were unable to stop from shaking. These were her honest concerns that she had over all these years, bottled up inside the more years passed. They were now finally bursting forth.
“I… left you in my shoes to be married to that ghastly twerp. I… I don’t deserve to be your dear sister.”
The more she thought about her family, the more her heart becomes suffused with anger. The anger was directed mostly towards herself for letting her family get to her, and get her to leave Hinota behind.
Hinota stepped in closer, noticing the shaking hand and grabbed it with both her own. Kasara stopped trembling, and felt the gentle warmth caressing her hand.
“Dear Sister, I could never hate you,” Hinota said with sincerity in her tone. “It was you that taught me everything I needed to learn. It was you that have always supported me during those times when I failed. Even if you did leave me, it was because you wanted to go on your path. How could I hate you for that?”
Kasara looked back at Hinota, her slanted eyes becoming watery as her tears were almost gushing out.
“I’m glad that you could move on with your life. And I’m so happy that you have such a good life. I’m sorry for not saying this sooner, and it’s mostly because I didn’t wanted to admit… but congratulations on getting married.”
Hinota spoke with no hidden intentions. Those were her true and honest words. A smile that would warm anyone’s heart on her gleaming face. She felt anguished to see that Hinota has grown mature after all this time, while Kasara could only run away.
After all these years, she could see for herself how Hinota has grown up to be a true-to-honest woman.
“Hinota…” Kasara couldn’t hold back the single tear welling up, and wiped it away with her hand as she smiled. “You’ve really grown.”
“I-I guess…” Hinota blushed as she looked away. Like with Kudo, she wasn’t good at sudden compliments from the people she treasures.
“Hah…” Kasara, after getting over her tearful emotions, let out a grand sigh. “I’m starting to lose hope with myself. I couldn’t even protect you from our family. I’m sure that you must have had a tough time.”
“I-I did, but everything’s fixed now!” Hinota suddenly shouted which surprised Kasara.
“H-How is it fixed?” She couldn’t disguise the surprise from her tone.
“Just like you, I also left the Flamver family—for good!” Hinota answered with pride bursting forth from her tone. “I’ll never come back to the manor again!”
Kasara couldn’t hide her shock either, seeing how Hinota just did something like that with a smile on her face.
“T-That’s…” However, rather than angry, she was impressed. “That’s incredible, but how?”
“Lord Grandfather helped me with everything. I have him to thank for.”
“Lord Grandfather…” The memories of her past were rekindled upon hearing the name. “I see. He has helped me out too in troubled times, so I expected as much. But still… Hinota, you really left. That’s…”
Kasara could barely make the words out. She was so overcome with emotion that she has no idea on what to say now. Of course, there was one clear emotion that she could make out.
She extended her arms and wrapped them around her.
“I’m… so glad, Hinota. It must have been scary for you.”
Hinota’s face was smothered by her large chest as Kasara held her tightly to herself, a smile on her face. Hinota’s face blushed from the sudden hug, but after feeling the nostalgic warmth of her body, Hinota nearly fell to sleep as she hugged her back, closing her eyes and enjoying the warmth.
“It wasn’t that scary. I had Kudo to thank for,” Hinota admitted, believing that she didn’t do it all on her own. “It was because of him that I had the courage to stand up to my family. Along with Lisa and Maon, everyone helped me.”
“I see…I have to thank Lisa and Maon someday. And I was right to trust that boy, then. All he did was talk about you, you know.”
“I-Is that so…? He can be pretty needy, then.”
Hniota said so, but a blush shown on her face showed otherwise. Kasara could see it clearly as day as she smiled at her and hugged her again.
Seeing from the distance the two sisters conjoining in a hug, Kagero laid on the sturdy tree base on his back, and shot a smirk at them.
“Figures that all they needed was a good talk.”
Kagero gave a slight chuckle before leaving them on their own to enjoy each other’s time.
“Ahh… so tired.”
Kudo groaned as he slumped back on his butt on the prickly grass. His arms supporting him from the back, his head rose up as sweat ran down his body and face.
“Good work, Kudo. You did well.”
Hikari commented as she sheathed her blade into her scabbard by her hip, her armor glistening from the sunlight piercing between the leaves.
“Then, let’s change back. “——《Equip Change》.”
Hikari spoke with an easy-going smile, raising her hand and opening up another kind of menu, a small sized one, in front of it. Hikari scrolled down the menu until she found the right one, and pressed it.
Then, the glistening armor she had on evaporated.
The shining armor suitable for a battle warrior started to vanish in glittering light, and as soon as it disappeared, instantly another set of clothing appeared in its place, turning out to be the black clothing she usually wore.
This was her Support Skill—Equip Change—which allows her to quickly change her set of armor for another one from her inventory to her body. The skill has a small menu which allows you to change armor sets at will. Those can be chosen and switched to at any time, and can be changed with another armor—as long as all the armor within that set is available in the person’s inventory.
“Amazing…” Kudo uttered out after seeing such a skill for himself.
He has never even heard of this skill before, but this is indeed a valuable skill an adventurer would kill for to get. After all, there are different types of monsters that deal elemental damage, and having an armor that has a resistance to that one part of elemental damage can be extremely helpful.
However, if you keep wearing that one type, for example, a water-resistant armor, you’ll face difficulties facing other monsters that attack with fire. As such, that skill that allows you to quickly change from water-resistant to fire-resistant armor can be crucial for an adventurer’s survival.
“Kudo, someday, you’ll be able to have this skill as well. Though you need to be at least level 200 to learn it.”
“R-Right!” Kudo stood up, revitalized after knowing that he’ll be able to learn such a good skill.
The reason Kudo was exhausted is because he has been dismantling every monster they’ve come across, and handed the parts to Par and Fitty, who were now sorting the materials in their inventory with a solemn gaze.
“Now then, I wonder what’s taking Kasara and the others so long? It’s not like them to take so much time,” Hikari turned their attention to one side of the jungle, keeping a sharp eye out for the three who remained to be seen.
Kudo was also starting to worry. With Hinota by herself, it might be possible that Hinota might have gotten lost and get attacked by one of the powerful monsters here. Even if she has a high intelligence and isn’t able to get lost, that worry was still lodged in his heart.
Then, footsteps resounded which caught their attention.
“Oh, there they are.”
Hikari smirked as the two spotted the three missing people walking towards them—Kasara and Hinota walking side by side with smiles plastered on their faces, and Kagero waving at Hikari and Kudo as he walked behind them.
“I see, so your class has transformed in such a way…” Kasara took an interesting glance at Hinota.
“Yeah. I talked it over with Lord Grandfather, but he said something about figure it out for myself, saying ‘it’s only logical to learn more about yourself as you grow’.”
Hinota asked since it’s been on her mind for a while about how her class has changed to a different one than what the history books in her manor told her about.
“I see,” Hearing that her grandfather wasn’t of much help, Kasara gave her thoughts. “Hinota, you increased your Intelligence stat instead of the Strength stat, is that correct?”
“Y-Yes,” Hinota answered with a slight worry.
“I believe that’s the cause. All this time, the Flamver family has increased the Strength stat for the Hell Knight class. They believed that since the Knight part of their class signifies strength than magic, they assumed that it was natural to raise Strength.”
“I believe, Hinota, that you alone have gone on another path other than the basic warrior, transforming the once-believed Warrior class to that of a hybrid mage and warrior. A rare occurrence, to be sure. I didn’t expect anything less of my sister.”
She spoke with honesty, with pride in her tone. Hinota blushed upon hearing more praise from her beloved sister.
“S-Sister, I can’t take all the credit. It’s because of Kudo that mentioned I should raise my INT stat. Otherwise…”
“Yes,” Kasara interrupted her. “However, you took it upon yourself to do so, and because you were smart enough to choose a path much more interesting than what our family planned. All the same, achieving a new class is your own work.”
From the distance, Kudo could tell immediately that everything went well as Hinota showed a smile that he never seen before—a charming and bright smile that seemed to glow with a childlike wonder.
This is the smile that Hinota shows for her precious sister.
“Hinota! Are you okay?” Kudo ran up to her as his worry was still nagging at him.
“With Dear Sister here, I had no problems,” Hinota said with brimming pride.
“Haha, I’m completely forgotten…” Kagero commented to himself which got Kasara to giggle to herself.
Kudo saw the scene and closed up to Hinota to speak in a lower volume.
“Hinota, did everything go well?”
Even if Kudo knew exactly what happened just from the looks on their faces, he had to ask to be sure. Hinota smirked as she responded.
“Yeah! Everything went well! Kudo, thanks for telling me to go after her.”
“Hehe, don’t mention it.”
Kudo felt sincerely glad to see Hinota smiling so—it was enough to grant him relief and, in short, he was charmed by her wondrous smile.
“Now that everyone’s here, it’s time to head back. It’s starting to get late.”
Hikari mentioned as she looked up, the available sunlight slightly dimming ever so slowly from the sun lowering down to the horizon.
“Let’s head back,” Hikari ordered as everyone in the vicinity raised their hands in unison.
“ “ “ “ “ “Yeah!” ” ” ” ” ”
Walking back to the city, Kudo told Hinota to talk more with Kasara as she wanted to spend more time with her. Since Par and Fitty were embroiled in their own business talk about the materials and Kagero was just hanging there with the sisters, Kudo was left alone.
However, walking alongside him was his mother who turned to him.
“Kudo,” Hikari smiled.
“Y-Yeah?” Kudo spoke with a slight stutter, feeling nervous as to what she might say next.
“When we get back, we still need to go out somewhere for tonight.”
Kudo thought that Hikari was into night training as well. Fearing that she might have caught on to Kudo’s little practice session at night, his heart grew weary.
“Kudo, we’re going to a little soiree within the city. It’s run by Randalf, and we need to head there to make proper welcoming.”
“Eh…?” Kudo groaned.
He believed that he was finished meeting other people, but it turns out that there was still more.
“I know it can be daunting,” Hikari’s eyes softened as she spoke sweetly. “But this is necessary. Randalf’s business does not only involve trading items, but also trading information. He’s the sort of guy who likes to spy and sell information to get the upper hand. If you come, it’ll be easier for him to sell his information to others.”
“H-How does that work?” Kudo was completely lost at how him being in a party is useful information.
“It’s something only he can do,” Hikari decided to leave it at that. “Nevertheless, you just need to make an appearance. Is that okay, Kudo?”
She asked sincerely, a gentle smile on her face. She has done so much for Kudo so far. It’s only fair that he has to do things even if he’s uncomfortable with it. Kudo knows this, but somehow, this party of theirs is giving him a bad feeling.
(If it’s anything like the ball in Peranim, maybe it won’t be so bad…) He thought, and then figured something out.
“C-Can I bring Hinota with me?”
With Hinota, he can be himself no matter where he is. This way, he won’t get nervous.
“I’m sorry, but she can’t come.”
However, he was shot down immediately.
“You see, it’s private invitation only. Not even my vassals can come. But I’m sure that you would like Hinota and Kasara to spend more time together, right?”
Kudo should have known that Hikari would also have noticed the tension between the two, and the fact that they have made up afterward. Kudo realized this as he looked at Hinota’s side, ever so smiling at her dear sister as the both of them were having a blast.
Kudo wants her to spend as much time as they spent apart from each other with Kasara. There’s no way he can disagree to that.
“A-Alright… I’ll go.”
Kudo said willingly, furrowing his eyes as if he was preparing his mind for the battle to come.
“Good,” Hikari smirked under the twilight shining from the sky.