Hour Empty Child
Two hours have passed after her parents have returned to the manor. After many preparations, the meeting will finally be underway.
Every family member has come to the once empty main hall of the Flamver household. Inside the spacious hall, it was lighted up by the mana stone lamps, giving the hall with its wooden floor and walls its exotic atmosphere of a foreign country.
At the very end of the hall lies a high chair on top of a set of stairs upon which Inferuno sat there as the leader of the Flamvers.
Sitting on the long table in the center in different seats were the Flamver family members. There were three adults. On one side of the table was Honchu and Kinoka Flamver.
On the other side was a grown woman who looked similar to Kinoka, though her fiery red hair was tied up in buns and had a smaller stature compared to her. Her two children sat beside her as well. Lariz, who was sitting properly on his chair while wearing his red kimono suited for males, and his brother Zukan Flamver, another favorited child with short red hair, wearing a similar red kimono and finally a cocky smile that went along with his personality.
Opening the sliding doors to the hall, Hinota stood alongside with Lisa. The members looked back at her as Hinota turned to nod at Lisa, making her nod back in silence as Hinota left her behind to get to her seat.
Her footsteps causing small thumps to echo across the hall, Hinota walked to her parent’s side and sat down beside her mother on the far left. She raised her head, her slanted purple eyes viewing everyone in the room, and finally to her Lord Grandfather who smiled upon her arrival.
“Great, now that we’re all here, let’s get this rare Flamver meeting underway.”
Inferuno, as the leader, started off the meeting as soon as every member of the Flamver family has returned. The woman on the right side, Kinoka’s smaller sister, Haruka Flamver, stood up from her chair causing everyone to look back at her.
“It is good to see everyone again—Dear Sister, Dear Brother-in-law, our precious children, and Lord Father. I will start things off by retelling the news that every one of us must have heard over the past few days.”
Following her words, Hinota knew exactly what she was going to talk about, causing her brows to wrinkle for one moment before returning to her usual glare.
“The terrible tragedy that has occurred in Vipory has caused the deaths of 50 farmers from Peranim. They say that the one who caused the incident was a deranged adventurer who hails from the land of Lerabelum. Now, I don’t mean to stir up panic, but there might be a chance that war might come along to our country.”
Though what she talked about was grave, Haruka didn’t looked very concerned by the smile on her lips. Though Hinota was disturbed by this, she knew what she was talking about as well.
Other than the fact that the people of Peranim will lose their trust in adventurers, the fact that the loss of the farmers will severely impact Peranim’s economic situation. Their deaths meant that they have lost their farms, and the farms will no longer provide enough food to sell to the merchants.
Even if someone takes over the farms, at the very least, the food they make will not be substantially good. That meant that the price for good ingredients to make their food will skyrocket thanks to the greedy merchants who have a monopoly over the food, thus causing Peranim to go through a crisis of hunger throughout the land.
“Those who get hungry from the lack of food in our land will come to invade other lands for resources. It is such that there will be a civil war amongst the commoners. As such, I take it that we prepare ourselves by holing up in Erijo and strengthen our resources.”
“That is a sound idea, Haruka,” Kinako smiled as she agreed to that. “Even if the people will lose their interests in adventurers, we still have our wealth to sustain us through this crisis until Peranim’s farms resolve this in due time.”
Seeing Kinako smile and agree, Hinota could tell that she didn’t care whether adventurers will get a bad reputation from the people, as long as they are not affected.
It became to the point where the Flamver family is slowly dissolving their history as adventurers, and become more like nobles and merchants. Hinota has learned all her life, from her Lord Grandfather and from Lisa, how that the Flamver family were the most powerful adventurers in all of Peranim. Their feats are legendary, to the point of bards singing their songs across the adventurer’s halls.
Hearing this conversation going underway, the image of the powerful Flamver family was slowly crumbling away in Hinota’s mind.
“Mmh, cant say that I don’t agree to that. Understood,” Inferuno, finding no fault in their plan, agreed to it as he continued on. “Onto the next topic of interest.”
“Lord Grandfather,” Kinako now was the one that stood up, causing Hinota to clutch on her kimono. “I believe it is about time to talk about the continuation of our bloodline for the next generation.”
“Ah… going into that topic again.”
Inferuno, for the most part, didn’t look very excited about this topic as Kinako resumed her glare to the family members. Lariz curled his left side of his lips upwards.
“Regarding the issue about our bloodline receding, I believe a marriage between Flamver should be the solution we need to further strengthen ourselves, to go along with Haruka’s plan.”
“But still,” Inferuno scratched his cheek as he tried to follow her plan. “Do we really need to go so far? What if health issues arise when two family members born a child?”
Hinota, in her mind, cheered and appreciated her Lord Grandfather’s logical statements, but Kinako has already planned that far ahead.
“I have researched other family members—families that have special classes like ours—and have spoken to them on this topic regarding the loss of one’s class. To some families, such a phenomenon has occurred, and have concluded that their original blood receding is possible when people outside of the family joins in the bloodline. Regarding that, marriage between distinct family members, whose blood are not directly connected, is a sure-fire way of improving our bloodline. After much time, I have discovered from other families that there were no health issues from the child born between family members, and thus, it is a worthy plan to begin this marriage right away.”
Hearing Kinako’s plan that sent the other Flamver members to believe that it was very sound, Inferuno kelp silent as he rubbed his right temple with his fingers.
Hinota knew that Kinako’s only goal is to help their family keep their position as nobles and at the top of the food chain between Special Class families. However, what she hated the most about this plan is that her parents will push this on her against her will.
Even without seeing him, Hinota could sense Lariz’ creepy smile on his face, as if he had no issue with it. The reason being is that Lariz isn’t the type to stay faithful.
At most, he will keep one or two women as concubines while Hinota stays behind to deal with the family matters. That way, whatever responsibility falls onto him will go to her instead, making her deal with such trifling matters as going to meetings and dealing with documents while Lariz can be free to do whatever he wants with his women and adventures.
Sure, Hinota could have whatever she wanted, but the fact that she has to remain in the household, never going back to being an adventurer again, filled her with dread. What’s worse, to have such a scum bag of a cousin to be her husband was definitely outside the range of her tolerance.
Inferuno himself didn’t look very pleased with this idea, but considering how strong Kinako was pushing for this, and that every member of the family other than himself and Hinota were all agreeing to this plan, Inferuno looked like he didn’t have a choice.
This made Hinota act.
As soon as Kinako sat back down in her seat, pleased that she has her plan underway, Hinota stood up, her chair squeaking against the floor which got the attention of every member there.
“I have something to say to that.”
Her declaration reached to every Flamver’s ears. That surprised her parents. That made Lariz raise a brow along with his brother Zukan. It made Haruka wrinkle her brows in surprise.
Inferuno turned to her, deeply interested in his grandaughter’s words.
“Hinota, what in the world are you--?”
“I object to this marriage.”
Kinako, filled with rage at her daughter, was about to interrupt her before she was interrupted herself by Hinota’s daring proclamation.
Not only have Kinako widened her eyes, Honchu was also left dumbfounded.
Kinako, after regaining her bearings, now glared at Hinota to the point of practically melting her face, but Hinota resolved herself in keeping her stance even after being under her mother’s heavy gaze.
Hinota has always strived to gain her mother’s acceptance. To be able to be seen in her eyes full of pride like Kasara did all those years ago before she cut off her ties. It was all that she ever wanted.
But she knew now that the only way to do so is to get rid of her own will, and become a slave to the family’s bloodline. No matter how much she loved her mother and father, she couldn’t abandon her freedom.
“Mother, Father, I object to this marriage. I refuse to marry Lariz.”
“…Do you think you have the right to decline?!”
Kinako, in her own rage, stood up quickly to the point of pushing off her chair and make it fall to the floor, causing the loud sound to erupt from within the quiet hall along with her angered tone.
“You are my daughter! As a Flamver, you have a duty to support your family!” Kinako continued to glare, using her position as her mother to keep her in line.
But Hinota knew that dealing with her was useless. So she resolved herself to ask someone higher in position.
“Lord Grandfather, I ask that you heed my request.”
Hinota ignored her mother’s words and looked directly at her grandfather. Inferuno felt Hinota’s glare himself, becoming interested as he placed his head on the palm of his hand.
“Might I ask for your reasoning for this?” Inferuno asked, to be sure to give the other members a valued reason.
“I’m afraid that no matter how much research is put into this, the fact that doing this is still immoral,” Hinota calmly explained the fault of this method, showing no sign of nerves overwhelming her.” “And more so than that, even if our bloodline is suffering, I choose not to marry Lariz. I believe that I have a right to refuse to marry someone I do not love.”
As Hinota was explaining, laughter erupted brazenly by the young man in question on the other side of the table. Hinota turned with a furious glare to Lariz who started the commotion.
“Haha, so you hate it that badly that you had the courage to speak out against it? Hahaha! Oh, how adorable!”
Lariz, with his ever cocky smile, rose himself out of his chair as it squeaked against the floor. He looked back at Hinota, his eyes scanning her body to notice if she was trembling as he continued.
“You can say that you want to refuse, but can you really? In order to keep this family going—in order to make sure that our future as nobles is secured, we need strong blood to access our special class to become adventurers. As you all know,” Lariz turned to everyone in the room before looking back at his grandfather. “We need our adventurers in this family to support us in gaining our income. If out class disappears due to our bloodline suffering, then our only source of direct income is in danger.”
Lariz looked back at Hinota to see her reaction, revealing a curled sneer at her to see if she was trembling from his mighty logic. However, she stood resolute, a furious glare in her eyes as always. It made him surprised but he continued nonetheless.
“That’s why this marriage is necessary. Even if you refuse, little dear Hinota, our very way of life is in danger,” Lariz lifted his hand and placed it on his forehead, pretending to be having a headache from Hinota’s actions. “I’m afraid that your immature mind is not understanding the fact that if this does not go well, you will longer be served by our servants. You can no longer eat the same glorious food and sleep in the most comforting room. Do you understand? You will not be able to live luxuriously like this if you do not go through this marriage!”
Lariz directed the topic to prove that Hinota was too childish to understand their financial situation. From this, Haruka lifted her hand to stifle a giggle at this supposed truth revealment, leaving both Kinako and Honchu to pursed their lips at this supposed fact.
Hinota, however, knew that at this point, she was alone facing all of her family at once. She knew that considering her age, she will not be taken seriously, and at most, they will mostly just silence her own words to carry on.
She didn’t want to resort to this, but she knew that at this point, there was only one possible way of proving her own independence. She let out a long sigh, surprising the other family members as she turned to Inferuno.
“Lord Grandfather, I have amassed 22 million jib with my partner over the past 6 months.”
The very sentence alone made everyone drop their jaws.
“W-What?!” Honchu stood up in surprise, his eyes widened as his chair squeaked in response. Everyone else was left with blank expressions.
Lariz himself seemed to be left wide-eyed, but after a moment of regaining his bearings, Lariz lowered his brows and smirked.
“Hah! Big words from such a little girl! It’s not possible for someone like you to amass that much money! Not even I or my brother have made that much money before! The only possible way you have gotten that much money was either you let your party members do all the work for you or you sold yourself around for profit! Of course, you of all people wouldn’t dare to sell yourself, so in the end, you can’t even support yourself!”
Following his logic, the other family members believed it to be so by the look of their somewhat-relieved faces. However, the look on Inferuno’s face proved that he took her words to heart.
Hinota, after being questioned, closed her eyes as she gave a small smile. The idea of being helped by other people is not a lie.
“You may be right about being helped. Without Kudo, I couldn’t have been able to get this far ahead. But know this, Lord Cousin,” Hinota turned to him, opening her eyes to show her blazing purple eyes full of willpower. “I pushed forward with my own power as well. I would be happy to show you how much I have improved.”
Hinota curled the edge of her lips with a smirk. Lariz’s temple showed a throbbing vein as he gritted his teeth behind closed lips. Haruka took this as a sign and stood up herself.
“Enough with this nonsense! What point is there in provoking my son!? Kinoka, reign in that child before she goes and hurts herself!”
Haruka looked back at her sister, making Kinako lower her head in agreement.
“I apologize. I don’t know what has gotten over her, but rest assured, I will make sure to punish her.”
Kinako then looked back at Hinota, her once just glaring eyes now turned into a vicious scowl.
“Hinota, it looks like you still do not know how the world works. Even after receiving the notice, your actions today will lead that ‘partner’ of yours into trouble. It’s clear that his influence has tainted your mind. It only makes sense that that boy should be punished for kidnapping you for so long.”
Kinako knew exactly what Hinota’s weakness was. Kudo was the sole reason why Hinota anguished so much and became forced to return home. Kinako and Honchu threatened Hinota to put up a notice for Kudo, claiming that he kidnapped a noble and forced her to go on a journey with him. Such a ‘crime’ would result in being hunted down by the knights as a top priority, and possibly even include his villagers from Arkhem.
Even though the crime is a complete lie fabricated by her parents, as long as the Flamver says so, it is considered the truth until further notice, and there won’t be anymore notice for Kudo.
However, Hinota had a plan for that.
Ignoring her mother by whipping her head back to Inferuno, which made Kinako open her mouth in surprise, Hinota made another proclamation.
“Lord Grandfather, please heed another request of mine.”
Without giving Kinako a break, she gritted her teeth in frustration as Inferuno returned to his sitting position with both hands on the arms of his chair.
“What kind of request you wish to make?” Inferuno asked with a deep gaze that could bore through steel.
“I wish to fight my cousin Lariz in a duel befitting of a Flamver. If I, Hinota Flamver, wins a match against Lariz Flamver, then I wish to have whatever request I make granted.”
Hinota proudly proclaimed which stunned the others to be left gaping. Lariz, however, smirked.
“And? What should happen if you lose? What happens when I beat your little insolent body to a bloody pulp?”
“Lariz!” Honchu shouted in response to his violent proclamation. “What in the world are you doing?!”
Hinota, however, remained undaunted by this as he ignored both her father and Lariz and looked directly at Inferuno.
“If I should lose, then I will not say another word and accept this marriage. Please, Lord Grandfather, heed this request of mine.”
Hinota bowed in the utmost respect for Inferuno, making the others around the table to be left in deep shock. They all looked back at the leader sitting at the top, waiting for his response.
Then, he made his answer.
“I shall allow this.”
Inferuno’s answer left everyone wide-eyed. Honchu and Kinako especially.
“Lord Father!” Kinako practically snapped back, banging the long table with her hands with a loud force that could have injured them.
However, Inferuno left her aside and looked directly at Hinota with a powerful gaze, enough to leave Hinota tensing her muscles to see the smile that seems to be enjoying this moment more than anything.
“The Flamver family is a proud family. No matter what happens, it’s only natural that adventurers should fight it out when they disagree on something. Only then, after fighting one another, can they truly understand each other,” Inferuno explained the passage from the Adventurer guidebook that Hinota recalls reading. “But know this, my dear granddaughter. A Flamver must never take back her word. Whatever happens, I expect that you will follow your word with pride.”
The way Inferuno said those words made it seem as though the outcome was obvious to him. Sensing that, Hinota raised her head and smiled with brimming confidence.
“I understand, Grandfather. By the end of this, I will continue on with my journey.”
Hearing the sudden confidence bursting forth from her tone, a fist drove itself to hit against the table, leaving the table to shake under its pressure which got everyone to look at the source of the loud sound.
“I don’t know why I’m being made fun of like this, but I certainly won’t let this farce continue!” It was Lariz, his throbbing vein appearing on his forehead. He looked at Hinota who made fun of him, his rageful leer burning her.
“P-Please, Lariz, calm down! Hinota does not know what she is saying!”
Honchu, seeing that everything was going out of course, tried to bring the situation by proclaiming Hinota’s ignorance.
“Hmph! Even if she takes back her words, there’s no way I can just take this down!”
Lariz shouted, enough to put Honchu aside as his status as an adventurer shows. However, Hinota couldn’t help but smirk as she knew that she only needed one more push before it could be possible.
“Why, Lord Cousin, you couldn’t be so angry because you were rejected by two of your own cousins, are you? Because that is really sad.”
Her words, suffused in a mocking tone, brought about Lariz’s throbbing vein to its limit.
Lariz banged both his hands on the table, gritting his teeth from the humiliation Hinota just dished out.
It was at this time that no manner of reconciliation can subside Lariz’ anger now. The only thing left is to fight it out as promised.
Hinota glared back at the seething Lariz who couldn’t wait to rip her apart, and smiled in her own cocky manner as she waited for this day for a long time.