Hour Empty Child
It has been a day’s journey since the Flamver carriage rode on the dirt path to their destination.
The air was as cool as it was sunny in the sky. Everywhere around them was the bountiful nature, away from areas infested with monsters and safely driving on the path to the city.
Driving on the carriage’s front side was the Flamver’s personal messenger, Maon. He reigned in the finely-bred trotting horses with such precision that it leaves other drivers in envy.
Not only that, he was also an excellent rider, as is shown throughout the entire journey that Maon has not once ridden over any hole which shakes the carriage, making the entire journey as soothing and smooth as a clear street.
However, even as he drives with such passion, as expected of the Flamver’s messenger, his heart grew heavy knowing that his passenger in the back seat was not comfortable in the slightest.
He looked back through the window behind him, to peer into the carriage’s box with shows his passenger, his young master whom he had the displeasure of separating her from her best friend.
The young woman, with the fairest skin and the blazing red hair tied behind her, sat on the seat with a somber expression shadowing her dignified face, her famous slanted eyes looking to the side of the window with a melancholic stare, as if her spirit was left back in Vipory.
Such an image, though still beautiful enough to paint a picture from it, brought a stinging pain in Maon’s heart. Seeing his young master in such a state, it would bring him to tears.
What’s even more agonizing is the pile of empty boxes, a few bits here and there of leftovers of food that Hinota has eaten through this journey.
The reason so is because there were only five of those empty lunch boxes in a pile, meaning that she has only eaten five meals. To Maon, this was a grave situation, as Hinota is usually the kind with an outrageous appetite, as expected of a Flamver adventurer, and would eat more than 5, perhaps more than 10, but Hinota has only eaten five.
He knew exactly the reason why she wasn’t hungry, and it was all because of her bittersweet departure with Kudo Braben, her best friend.
“My lady,” Maon spoke gently, raising a smile to his lord. “We are to be heading to the next town. Would you like some more meals?”
He asked to be sure that Hinota eats more meals for her appetite. It didn’t matter how much jib is spent—to Maon, money is of no importance, as long as Hinota is well-fed.
However, the look of Hinota’s face did not change, and only answered in kind to her expression.
“No,” She answered softly. “Thank you, Maon, but I’m already full. Please, continue…”
To Maon, it sounded like it took all she had to answer his question. Pursing his lips, he answered ‘Understood’ as he turned his head back to the street as he quickens his haste to their destination.
Hinota looked at her messenger’s back of the head, knowing exactly what his intentions are. He wanted her to eat more, so that it would cheer her up.
His intentions were kind and gentle, as expected of someone who she grew up with, serving her to his most extent. However, truthfully, Hinota did not wish to eat at all, and the small-numbered meals she ate were just so that Maon would not worry so much.
She didn’t feel like eating at all—in fact, she felt as if she doesn’t deserve to eat. How could she eat, knowing that Kudo was suffering at this very moment?
Back in Vipory, there was a tragic accident that involved the death of more than 50 Peranim farmers due to a crazy adventurer’s actions. Those deaths involved the two very important people in Kudo’s life—his mother and father.
Both Hinota and Kudo were there, and they faced the one responsible for their deaths, but the adventurer, Shinezu, was too strong even for their levels, knowing to be the highest out of all the other adventurers in the country.
Not only that, though it should have been a minor thing in the grand scheme of things, Hinota’s pride was reduced to rubble—trampled upon by Shinezu himself when Kudo was gravely injured. In order to protect him, to avoid another death by Shinezu’s hand, Hinota pleaded for Kudo’s life.
She discarded her pride as a Flamver, and as an adventurer, and she even offered her own life to protect him, and yet, none of it mattered. She could still remember that stare of his that shook her soul to the core no matter how much time has passed.
He was ready to kill not just her, but Kudo as well. If it weren’t for her sister’s interference, both of them would have been dead.
She could still remember that image in her head, an image burned into her memory forever. Her sister coming in to save her just as her life was nearing its end in Shinezu’s hands. Her long fire-red hair and slanted eyes made such an impression on her, it left her breathless.
Not only that, but her power was on another level. She could take on Shinezu, even as he was powered up by all the dark experience, a power gained from killing innocent people, gathered from the explosion that took Kudo’s parents away.
Seeing her in such a state, Hinota wondered just how far she needed to be to reach to her level. She knew now that she’s nowhere near it.
She looked back at the window, seeing the wondrous scene of nature, a grassland with vibrant trees strewn about in her line of sight, with a discarded expression of a doll—no emotion at all.
She knew now, more than ever, that she was weak. If she was stronger, she could have prevented the entire situation, and avoid the deaths of Kudo’s parents.
But it wasn’t possible.
Hinota could still see the expression on his face, his once beautiful jade-colored eyes looking empty, as if he lost all will to live and all the light extinguished inside of him.
It brought her so much pain, and even more so, because of her parents’ forceful nature, she had no choice but to leave Kudo to go back home.
She could have prevented this, at least, with her vast knowledge and excellent scheming, but she wanted to at least grant Kudo’s wish of wanting her to be with her parents, even if it’s only for a short while.
The words he spoke to her rang in her heart more than anything else—when he said to enjoy her parents’ time, because she never knows how much she will have with them. Knowing his pain, Hinota couldn’t refuse.
Hinota laid her head on the back of the seat, cushioned by the leather as if drowning in its softness. She could no longer go back to where he was, because she wanted him to go on in his adventures, and to forget the pain brought about by the incident.
She’ll never know when she will reunite with him again, and that brings her more pain than anything else.
Time has passed as Hinota became suffused in her thoughts. Before she knew it, the rocking sounds of the carriage’s wheels making a sharp turn reached her ears.
She turned her head up. The window outside showed her a very familiar environment that brought her mind back to reality.
She remembers the area all too well. The air around them was slightly warmer than usual. It could be that the season has come to pass, but it was also this area’s environment that made it slightly warmer than usual.
The ground was barren, yet it had its distinct hazel color that enriches the mind. They reached the part of Peranim that had a higher heat than usual.
It was there that Hinota knew that she has returned. Back to Erijo.
She put her head out the window and saw the grand gates that separated them from the city. Marron-colored gates, guarded by the very knights that were too late to come to Vipory before.
The knights had a different color type than the other knights, but they were the same as the usual armored suits.
The moment the carriage came into view for them, the knights, though their helmets hid their expressions, had a look of surprise by the way they hang their heads back. One knight quickly commanded the other to open the gates.
Once that was done, the gates split apart slowly, the creaking sound of it opening resounded. Once Maon nodded to the knight, he whipped the reins on the horses and drove forward.
Hinota spotted the knight with her glaring eyes, and the knight met her heavy gaze. The poor knight, probably an underling, actually shivered at her glare, though only for a moment.
Hinota let out a sharp sigh due to this—it was the same as usual.
Even while young, her glare would usually scare off most people, especially young children, so she wasn’t exactly favored when she was young. Only when she grew and her assets developed was when she received notice of her beauty, though that itself was superficial due to her status.
Within her mind, she recalled the compliment she has ever received for her eyes from Kudo which still stunned her today. She kept the compliment in the back of her head as the carriage drove through the entrance.
The city itself was the same as before even after 6 whole months have passed. The brown colored buildings were actually mostly made of wood, magnificently made to resemble that of an ancient society with an interesting culture.
Hinota could see, from the corner of her eyes, some of the houses that had roofs, tiled and curved, with wooden walls and pillars that supported them. She could see the paper sliding doors that only needed to be slid to the left and right to open and close respectively. Her city was different from the other cities that their customs were largely different, from the way they even eat and act at home.
However, it wasn’t the town that caught most of her attention—it was the people.
“Look at that!”
“One of Flamver’s children has come back!”
“It’s Lady Hinota Flamver!”
Some of the people, mostly wearing robes with sashes around their bellies while others had the same style back in Vipory, roused up a ruckus as soon as the golden-crimson carriage came into view.
Each one was wide-eyed, and extraordinarily louder than usual. Definitely not what Hinota wanted right now.
“Kyaa! She’s here! She’s finally here!”
One passerby screamed her heart out as Hinota saw her image only once before she drove by, though her image is forever recorded thanks to her incredible memory.
She was popular from the looks of things, but Hinota didn’t have the energy to greet her so-called ‘fans’. She only looked forward to the window on the front, a bored but glaring look on her face as she usually shows around the city.
After a while of driving and hearing the screeching of her people, Hinota has finally reached her destination.
The Flamver Manor—her home.
The Flamver home was a large wooden structure of a manor fit for royalty. It had the same tiled-roof style as the other houses, but the sheer size of it renders anyone immobile for a moment. Since it was on the near outskirts of the city, it occupied a lot of space, enough to hold several dozens of people at once. The manor was square-shaped, with white-colored walls and windows that nearly covered the entire place. At the center within the borders of the house lies a beautiful garden that’s yet to be seen.
Hinota saw the house with a slight melancholic look, nostalgic memories flooded her mind, including the nice ones and the bad ones. All in all, she was finally home.
Maon drove to the wooden gates that surrounded the manor, and once the guards, hired by the Flamver family to protect their surroundings, took notice of him, they opened the gates and let them pass.
After a while, once the carriage drove to the terrace of the manor, Maon stopped the carriage and jumped off of his seat. He turned around to face the door of the carriage. He opened it up, and slightly bowed to the recipient inside.
Hinota, after seeing the door opening, knew that it was her cue. She put on a stoic expression, and lifted herself up to see the outside world after a while.
What she saw was the familiar outlook she was used to seeing 6 months ago.
“Welcome back, Lady Hinota.”
Several women dressed in fine red and gold robes known as a kimono, bowed in respect to their master finally coming back home.
However, Hinota only responded in accordance to her usual self.
“I have returned,” Hinota spoke gracefully with a stern tone. “I thank you for your greetings.”
Hinota came down the stairs of the carriage. The servants moved aside to make a pathway for Hinota to come to her manor’s entrance, which were two paper screen doors made with a colorful painting of fire blazing at the center.
She slid them open with both hands, finding herself in a hallway with white-colored walls and a few square-shaped lamps with mana stones that were turned off at the moment. The nostalgic feeling hits her across her face like a nasty punch.
She was on the front porch of the entrance, where the wooden floor underneath her was rougher than usual—this was where she would take off her boots to respect the rules of the household of having no shoes inside.
She took them off and placed them neatly on the cabinet beside her. She entered the hallway, her feet finally touching her home’s floor after a long time has passed.
However, she wasn’t feeling in the best way as of yet. She walked forward, as even after a long time has passed, she could still remember the way to the main hall without any assistance.
It took her a while to get there due to the grand size of the manor, but after passing by several rooms, she finally entered the main hall—where the Flamver family members usually meet.
It was as large as the adventurer’s guild base in most cities, where dozens of people can get inside without much issue. There was a rug that extended to reach the entire floor, and a long wooden table stood at the center of it all. The table wasn’t actually part of the culture, but since the Flamver were quite wealthy, having a table for their meeting is only natural for their standards. At the very back was a large seat that remained empty between the two tall fire torches. There was a big picture behind the seat which was the mark of their Special Class—a sword enveloped in a fiery blaze.
Despite that it was a wooden manor, it was made with the legendary Wurtzite wood, known to be the strongest wood imaginable. It was thanks to the wood that it hasn’t burned down to smithereens since the Flamver family’s affinity was fire.
Hinota walked forward, and noticed that there was nobody there yet. The feeling of emptiness in the room has already filled her with a quiet rage that nestled in her heart since the beginning of the journey.
Her parents, her lord father and mother, had the gall to threaten Kudo by branding a criminal if she doesn’t comply of going back home, and now they weren’t even here to greet her.
However, after that small moment of anger, Hinota’s body calmed down after realizing that this is how it usually is.
Her parents were hardly ever around during her childhood since they were mostly busy with their duties as the Flamver family—making meetings, going to expensive parties, socializing with the other nobles in the city of Erijo—this was all common sense in the Flamver household.
After taking another step, her sharp ears heard the faint footsteps behind her, making her turn a heel before finally seeing the one who caused the noise.
“Lisa…” Hinota spoke out in a surprised soft voice.
The woman who greeted her with faint footsteps was another of Hinota’s servants—in fact, she was the top servant, an exclusive care-taker for Hinota. Her mature and elegant style brought Hinota to tears to see her again.
Her short black hair that was straight reached up to her neck, and her visage cannot be compared to most of the servants. It would be surprising to say that she was a caretaker rather than a noble herself. She wore the same red and gold kimono as the others, yet her presence is known amongst the servants as ‘top dog’.
“Lady Hinota,” Lisa, her usual half-lidded eyes shined after seeing Hinota again. “It has been too long. I do hope that your journey has treated you well.”
Hinota’s usual stoic expression melted away for that moment and ran up to her at such speed that resembled a child finally seeing her favorite relative.
She extended her arms and embraced Lisa with an affectionate hug. Returning back her hug, Lisa’s lips curled up.
“You look so different compared to when you left. I can see it—you have grown stronger than before,” Lisa stroked Hinota’s fire-colored hair, a defining trait of the Flamver family, with gentle loving care.
“Lisa, I missed you…!”
Her voice filled with admiration and love, Hinota greeted her with the words she has wanted to say the most.
Out of all the servants, Hinota remembers her caretaker very well since Lisa was charged with the task of taking care of Hinota since she was a child. Lisa took care of Hinota’s growth to be a fine woman, often being strict with her, but at the same time, showing so much kindness and love enough to be called a mother to her. Though she was the same age as Maon, her maturity has reached the same level as a grown woman.
“I have missed you as well, Lady Hinota,” Lisa spoke out her heart’s words. “It has been hard knowing that you left on such a dangerous journey as an adventurer. But I see now that my worries were misplaced.”
“Mmh, I have grown stronger after all,” Hinota admitted with a cocky tone. “Did you read my letters?”
“Of course, I have. I jump with joy after receiving your exciting letters, Lady Hinota.”
Seeing Lisa again after a long time has dispelled the nasty nostalgic feelings in her heart and soul. Lisa was the reason why she had so many nice memories in the household, that and along with her older sister, Kasara. Her Lord Grandfather have also given her nice memories, though his time was short since he was the leader of the Flamver family.
Throughout the happy reunion, Maon came up from the entrance to the main hall, catching sight of the two beauties in an elated embrace. A smile rose from his lips, his own concerns dispelled from his heart after seeing his lord finally revealing a smile.
Noticing Maon in the distance, Lisa smiled at him for a job well done of bringing her here safely, and Maon picked that up from the look of her joyful half-lidded eyes. Lisa turned to Hinota who looked up to her.
“Lady Hinota, it must have been a long journey for you. Please, go and take a bath. We have been expecting you to arrive, so I made sure the bath was warm enough for you.”
“Thank you Lisa. I’ll be going now,” Hinota quickly gone back to her usual strong demeanor, but her smile never left her as she was about to leave.
“Oh, what’s this? Our little princess has finally arrived?”
Before she could move ahead, a wild and loose voice invaded her hearing, causing Hinota’s expression to cringe out of sight before going back to her usual glare.
Maon and Lisa both slightly furrowed their brows at the response of the one who shouted so carefree.
Hinota turned her heel to spot out the obnoxious noise, turning out to be the one and only cousin.