Hour Empty Child
It didn’t take long for the Alpha Heart party to completely take advantage of their chance to rake in the money in La Ruinda by hunting in the fields.
For Kudo, however, this became the chance to take another closer look at his mother, whom he has now accepted in his heart as his actual mother. The two seemed closer, not unlike the awkward and uncomfortable moments they shared before.
Now, it truly seemed like a mother and child bonding. And it wasn’t just the two Valkyria members that have gotten closer. Both Hinota and Kasara were together once again after being separated for years, but in the end, the two have gone back to how they usually were back at the manor, rather, they have gotten closer now than before.
It wasn’t just a chance to learn more about being an adventurer, or use any tricks to gain money and items—this time was used to rekindle lost bonds over time. Of course, it wasn’t as if the others weren’t included on this.
Kagero was plenty satisfied seeing Kasara and Hinota close again. As a husband, he was happy to see Kasara smiling so brightly now than before, rather than having a dark atmosphere whenever she remembers her sister due to her guilt. Though, even as they spend time together, Hinota was still reluctant, or rather, refused to call Kagero ‘Dear Brother’, and instead only sees him as some kind of tag-along.
Well, it’s still progress. Kagero was also a follower of the philosophy ‘Gain a little every day’. So he plans to try to get closer to Hinota little by little, even if that distance was just a microscopic gap.
As for Par and Fitty, they have only just found out about what happened to Hikari and Kudo just a few days after the party. They were surprised, to be sure, and even complained that they weren’t in on this. Hikari made sure to compensate them by helping them out with their hunting again.
And then, after the few days passed, it was finally time to return to Roprase, to their town Triun.
After finally returning to Triun, they had some good night sleep back at the mansion. While the hotel was nice on its own, nothing can beat the service of the caring Valkyria maids waiting on your hand and foot with excellent professionalism.
Their night passed by in a blink of an eye, and once the shining sun rose over the horizon, starting the brand new day, Kudo and Hinota headed off to the Alpha Heart Guild.
The two were just leaving the front entrance of the mansion after receiving the heartfelt greeting from their maids to have a good day. Kudo and Hinota were back to wearing their armor, feeling more than comfortable feeling from the protection and safety their armors provided for them.
“Well, Kudo, this is the start of our first official day as the E-Plus. How do you feel?” Hinota asked with brimming confidence radiating from her glaring eyes.
Kudo looked back at her with nary but a smile.
“Hehe, more than ready. Since I got some news to say to everyone.”
“News?” Hinota tilted her head. “What is it?”
Kudo closed in towards Hinota, cupping his hand near her ear and silently whispered his plans in great detail.
“Seriously?!” Hinota stepped back in surprise to hear such a plan.
“That’s right,” Kudo nodded, furrowing his eyes and showing a determined smile.
The two party leaders then went off to the guild with haste. With such news, it was a crime to keep waiting.
Making their way to the city and heading to the guild, they noticed the four people waiting together in front of the entrance just like before they left for La Ruinda.
They were the rest of the party members of the E-Plus.
“Hey! Welcome back, you guys!” Tsuchi shouted with his loud voice, waving his arm left and right along with the other excited party members.
“Hey, guys! It’s good to be back!” Kudo said with overfilling excitement.
“How things went while we were away?” Hinota asked following behind Kudo.
“Nothing as exciting as you guys went through. Kudo! We saw you on TV!”
Kudo took a step back to hear from Kuki about the same news he received from Hinota before.
“Kudo, you really looked like a celebrity! You were even called Kudo Valkyria!” Raika spoke in awe, her eyes glittering as if she became starstruck by Kudo.
“I-Is that so…?” Kudo chuckled wryly, hoping that they haven’t noticed anything else.
“Man, sometimes I forget that you’re the son of Hikari Valkyria… you look like her, but I just can’t feel that pressure she has from you.”
Mizuri spoke her mind about the subject, looking at Kudo up and down, scanning him for such a pressure, but she felt none of it. Kudo scratched his cheek with his finger.
“That’s a good thing. You can get closer to him than you can with Master.”
Kuki noticed Tsubaki’s praise for Kudo, hearing the word ‘master’ which can only mean one person.
“Hinota, are you calling Master Hikari ‘Master’?” Raika asked what was on everyone’s mind at this point.
“Yeah… I mean, she is the master, after all,” Hinota noticed it herself and scratched her cheek wryly while looking away.
The party members saw that and figured that something must have happened to them while they were away.
“Anyways, let’s get inside. I got some important news to say to everyone,” Kudo said to hurry along the conversation.
“Eh, news…?” Kuki asked, which Kudo explained later as he and Hinota went ahead to the guild.
Inside the Alpha Heart guild, where the screams of veteran adventurers scattered about like dust in the wind, it was the same as usual in the hall where everyone was having a blast as they usually did ever since Kudo first came in.
In amidst of the crazed merrymaking, Kudo and his party were away on a table at the farthest side of the hall. Before, this was so that Kudo and Raika wouldn’t have to meet up with the other rough adventurers and have to socialize with them.
However, this time, they have a change of plans.
“Kudo, are you really okay with this…?” Raika asked with concern, her furry ears drooping in worry for her leader who greeted her with a firm nod.
“And even doing this… you sure about that? Aren’t you nervous?” Kuki asked in concert with Raika’s concerns.
“Why not? I say go for it. If he’s a man, he has to go through this someday,” Mizuri said with complete confidence, a determined smile on her lips to his plan.
“Well, if the leader says so, I’m down with it,” Tsuchi replied with a casual remark.
“So, are you ready, Kudo?” Hinota once again went to confirm Kudo’s feelings.
Kudo, at the center between Hinota and Kuki, nodded in agreement to Hinota’s question, getting him to raise himself off of his seat, his chair squeaking against the marble flooring.
He eyed at his surroundings, seeing the Alpha Heart adventurers strewn about in their tables, and noticed the single table in the very center of the hall, where most of the mayhem was at and, of course, where most of the adventurers were.
Steeling his will like he did when he first started on his adventure, Kudo walked forward to that very table, his party members tailing behind him. Raika was the most nervous as her shoulders trembled for this plan, but Kuki grabbed hold of Raika’s right shoulder, and showed her his furrowed eyes. Seeing them, Raika nodded once before gaining the courage to continue.
It was then that something felt amiss with the other members. The rowdy mayhem that was ensuing was starting to cease, and every member looked back at the six newbies walking forward to the center of the hall.
It was as if they have stolen the limelight. It wasn’t strange for them to walk through the hall as they did every day, but something was different this time. Kudo was in the lead, and every member who has ever seen him since his inauguration knew that something had changed.
The look in his eyes resembled that of their certain leader…
Kudo could feel the eyes on him like he was in a glass case, but he proceeded forward, his comrades having his back during this critical moment.
Every member ceased their merrymaking to see the E-Plus reach the very center of the table as planned, but they weren’t done yet.
At the side, opening up the door that leads to the hall, Hikari looked forward and noticed the pause in the hall, the silence overtaking the room like a blanket over a bed.
“Mmh? What’s the occasion? Did someone die?”
Giving out her rather inappropriate line, Hikari spied the scene to spot out the cause of this strange phenomenon. Walking behind her, Kasara and Kagero noticed the strange scene of silence as well, and finally saw the reasoning behind it.
“Master, look,” Kagero pointed out to his guildmaster with his finger.
Hikari did just that, and widened her eyes when she spotted her son whom she has grown closer to during the past few days. In the morning, she had to go to the guild to tie up loose ends for her leaving the country, and thus had no chance of talking to her son before they left. So seeing her son being the cause of this silence stumped her.
“It looks like Kudo has something to say,” Kasara said with her observant eyes, already realizing what was about to happen.
With Par and Fitty, and the other members such as Jien and the maids working there, everyone was looking over at the son of the guild master standing in the center with his comrades, the table by their side which to them was like a podium.
And just like a podium, Kudo jumped onto it with precision, getting himself to rise up, his head higher than everyone else’s as he stood tall and proud, a smile, though shaking, on his lips.
He felt his body tremble in the most uncomfortable of ways, but he knew that it had to be done. He needed to say his words so that he can be able to put his mother’s worries at ease.
And this was something like a declaration to himself as well.
“Guys, I got something to say!”
Kudo shouted loudly, his voice permeating the silent hall which got everyone revved up and perking their ears to hear.
It was the very son of the Guildmaster, the one who would rather sit at the back to be with his party members. Though they weren’t the type to shun this type, as they had many different types of adventurers in their guild, but this was surprising coming from someone of Kudo’s caliber.
Even Hikari was taken aback by this, and for someone of her literal level, this was incredible.
Taking everyone’s attention to himself, Kudo felt himself running out of breath. But after one look at his party members, then to his best friend Hinota who gave a confident smile and nod, Kudo nodded back, and faced against the crowd of adventurers with his head raised high.
“I know that this might be a little weird, but I want to say this,” Kudo breathed in slowly. “From now on, I’m going to change my name.”
The crowd was left with expectant eyes to hear what the bit of news that they’re going to hear next.
Kudo closed his eyes, the silence making everyone’s anticipation rise to the point of breaking through the ceiling.
He then opened them up, finally accepting this to himself.
“I want to be called Kudo Valkyria Braven—or for short, Kudo V. Braven!”
The crowd of adventurers were left silent by this news. Each one of them widened in surprise and were left slack-jawed, but Kudo didn’t notice that.
Instead, he thought that this bit of news wasn’t as exciting as he thought, hearing the silence overtaking this hall.
“Now, I know that it’s not that important, but—”
Before Kudo could apologize for taking and wasting everyone’s time, the adventurers rose from their seats and roared so loudly that it shook the very foundation of the hall.
Fists rising, feet stomping, the adventurers were going all out on their cheer for their fabled Master Jr.
Kudo became stunned beyond comprehension. His comrades were also feeling the same way after seeing this turnabout.
During the sea of cheers, Kudo lowered himself down to the floor, but then became overcrowded with the adventurers who came forward to greet him.
“Congrats, Master Jr.!”
“I knew it would turn out like this!”
“It must have been hard. Way to go, Master Jr.!”
“Three cheers for Kudo V. Braven!”
Being showered with congratulatory praise from his guild members, Kudo was left with a shocked expression as he raised his hands to calm down the situation, but to no avail.
Meanwhile, looking at his side, Kagero and Kasara showed just as much surprise as the rest on their faces.
“I see…” Kasara then smiled warmly at the young master. “He finally accepted it.”
“And he’s making a change for it, too. It’s not easy to make that kind of proclamation,” Kagero spoke in praise for Kudo’s bravery on his declaration on top of the table. He knew that at this point, he was ready to change himself.
Then, both husband and wife looked to their side to see how Hikari is taking this.
To their surprise, they were left with gaping expressions.
Hikari looked on at her side with her eyes brimming with tears.
This was the kind of look that they have never seen their master show before.
They had this image of her being the most strongest adventurer all around. Throughout the years that Hikari has been their guild master, the vassals have never seen her cry. At times, they would see her show glints of sadness, but she has never shed a single tear.
But now, they saw that indomitable master of theirs welling and shedding tears like a flowing river. Her lips quivered and her shoulders trembled.
“M-Master?” Kagero spoke in concern, thinking that Hikari was somehow saddened by this.
He received no reply as Hikari moved forward, still gripped by her sobbing face. As she moved closer, the other adventurers noticed this and instantly stepped away from her as she made her way to her son.
Kudo finally noticed his mother coming in, but was shocked to see her face tinged with tears.
Without any warning, Hikari embraced Kudo, her wails heard throughout the hall. Not only Kudo, but his party members and the rest of his guild members looked on in surprise.
“Waaha! Kudo! I’m so happy!”
“M-Mom! Stop already! You’re embarrassing me!”
Now they understood what they were seeing. Hikari was so overcome with emotion that she couldn’t keep it in. She was embracing Kudo out of joy for him accepting her last name. To them, it was something that Hikari, being separated for so long, never thought she would ever see.
The adventurers were left with a smiling face, and the party members were left with surging emotions as well. Raika let out a few tears out of her eyes to see this spectacle while the other three, Kuki, Tsuchi, and Mizuri, were seeing this with a warm smile on their faces.
Hinota was enjoying this more than anybody, seeing that Kudo was finally close to his mother more than usual.
The crowd continued to cheer for Kudo who has finally given himself his original name. Once it was over, the E-Plus party has made the decision of changing their table to the center where it was empty, which made the other members come up to them in congratulations to their moving.
As the party members were greeting the older adventurers as part of being social, Kudo was left by his lonesome with Hinota, surprisingly, as Kudo checked out his status screen.
Name: Kudo Valkyria Braven
Class: ???? Light
Title: Ritheru’s Vessel (All skills with ‘Plus’ in their name will always have the highest damage.)
HP: 12150, MP: 11680, SP: 13680
Guild: Alpha Heart
Attack: 2076, Defense: 1153, Sharpness: 56%
Magic Attack: 4183, Magic Defense: 615, Speed: 720
STR: 101 INT: 92
VIT: 98 WIS: 46
DEX: 92 LUK: 876
Available Points: 0
“Wow, it even changed your name in your status!” Hinota said, giving a closer look at his new name in the status screen.
“Yep,” Kudo replied. “I didn’t know you could do that. I guess you can change your name on your status screen to however you like.”
“Hehe, congrats, Kudo V. Braven.”
Hinota said in a teasing way, but it left Kudo smiling widely.
“We’re not stopping here. We’re going to improve as much as we can, so that we won’t shame the name of the Alpha Heart!”
Kudo said, furrowing his brows and putting on his determined smile. Hinota smiled back in the same way.
“Let’s,” Hinota replied. “For the sake of our goals!”
Kudo gripped his hand into a fist to assure Hinota of how he felt.
Kudo knew that at this point, he needs to become stronger than he already is.
Not only for his own personal goal, but to show the honor of being part of the powerful guild known as the Alpha Heart.