Hour Empty Child
Miles away, the door of the wooden hut opened up, the hinges squeaking from years of neglect, within the dark ashy forest. A single man walked out of the doorway, clutching the knife stained bloody red in his hand.
Heavy breaths ensued from his stressed lungs, his torso heaving inward and outward while his bloodshot eyes continued looking forward as if he was replaying the scene from earlier infinitely.
He felt power, somehow, coursing through his very veins. He didn’t see it, but he could feel an aura enveloping his body as if devouring him whole.
“Incredible, isn’t it?”
His body flinched, as if struck by lightning, and every instinct told him to face his left and drive the bloody knife in his hand towards whoever spoke.
The man shouted, his short blond hair swaying as he thrusts without a second thought.
However, the blade was stopped by a single force—two fingers standing side by side grabbed the blade in between them, stopping it in its path.
The man widened his eyes to see his own thrust, which has delivered the finishing blow to his earlier victim, stopped so easily. He looked forward, sweat streaming down his temple as he sees another man in front of him who stopped the blade.
A cool man, with a strong jaw and cold calculating eyes behind the lenses of his glasses. His head was clean of any hair, as if one could see his reflection on it.
“The power surging to your very core… that’s what we call Dark Experience.”
The man said with a tempting tone oozing out of him. The blond-haired man’s body shook along with his caught blade between his fingers, before eventually the glasses man lets go of it, releasing his blade which lowered along with his arm.
“However, that’s not enough, is it?” The glasses man continued, getting the blond-haired man to also notice someone else besides him.
A small statured hooded figure, standing silently with a grimace on the figure’s face. The blond-haired man looked back at the glasses man.
“W-Who are you people…?!” He said with panic in his tone.
“We are understanding people,” The glasses man responded. “With like-minded satisfaction over the power you possess at this moment.”
The glasses man pointed at his torso, getting the blond-haired man to look at himself.
“And we know the reason why…” The man returned his hand to himself as he explained. “What you’re feeling right now is Dark Experience coursing through you. You gain it when you kill off people who have never killed anyone else before. Dark Experience is much more stronger than your average plain experience points can give you. And it’s so easy to gain it…”
The blond man listened to his every word, his mind absorbing every word into his brain as he slowly understood it.
“So, you would like to gain more dark experience…?”
The man moved his hand forward, extending his fingers to offer a handshake. The blond haired man could feel it—accepting his hand meant changing everything he knew about the world, and would forever change his life.
Well, his life already took a drastic leap of change, so his lips curled into a toothy grin, and he extended his hand.
■ ■ ■
“Hyaa!” Hinota’s cry resounded, pulling down a person over her shoulder and to the mat-covered floor. That poor person was Kuki.
“Gaah…!” Kuki’s breath was let out of his mouth as soon his entire body came tumbling down to the harsh floor. Wearing his training gear, the usual white sleeveless shirt and gray yoga pants, he was left on the floor while his arm was still held by Hinota’s hands.
Hinota, wearing her training gear with a black tank top and black shorts, different from her inner wear when sleeping, let go of his arm, showing that she didn’t even break a sweat. She moved forward to Kuki’s front, his eyes on her face as she extended her hand towards him.
“H-Hinota, is this necessary…?” Kuki spoke haggardly as he took Hinota’s hand, getting her to quickly lift him up without any issue.
“Of course it is. I need to evaluate how strong you are when you’re fighting bare armed. By the way, you need to put a little bit more work on moving your legs.”
“Y-Yes, ma’am…” Kuki groaned upon receiving his lecture from Hinota, his body undulating as he walked towards the resting area where the seats are in the Training room.
“You’re up next, Raika.”
“E-Eh…?!” Raika, sitting on the bench with her training gear—a gray tank top and black shorts--and watching the scene with a frightened look on her face, screamed out loud as Kuki walked to sit on the bench beside her.
It was early in the morning in the Valkyria mansion. The E-Plus party were busy giving themselves early morning training by using the Training room for their daily work out. It was Hinota’s idea to spar and see how to evaluate everyone’s training.
To give a proper evaluation, they made it so that Hinota would be the one sparing against Kuki and Raika, while Kudo will be sparring against Tsuchi and Mizuri. However, Hinota cleverly made it this way so that Kudo would get used to Tsuchi and Mizuri by way of sparring, in other words, physical bonding.
As Hinota was gripping Raika down by the neck with her toned arms in a hold, Raika gritting her teeth and her furry ears shaking as she tries to get out of it, Hinota spied to the side of the spacious training room to see Kudo with his arms raised and fists clutched tight.
His furrowed eyes glared directly at his big opponent, Tsuchi. Unlike Kudo, who was wearing his black sleeveless shirt and black pants, Tsuchi was wearing gray pants only—he was completely bare from the middle up. His daunting muscles and giant frame of a body seemed too much for any normal teenage boy to handle, but Kudo showed furrowed his brows.
“Here I come, Kudo-chii!” Tsuchi charged after Kudo with both arms extending outward as if to grab him with his entire body.
He came in quickly and was using his giant body to his advantage. Kudo knew that this was Hinota’s work as he praised her education in his mind, but he knew that he needed to focus right now.
As Tsuchi closed in, Kudo sidestepped out of the way, getting out of Tsuchi’s range as he swore that he had him in his arms. Then, Kudo took the chance of his unawareness and delivered a precise jab on the side of Tsuchi’s torso.
A breath was released from Tsuchi, but he didn’t falter as he raised his elbow and tried to strike him across his face with it. But Kudo was one step ahead.
Usually, this would be where Kudo would activate his Sixth Sense skill, but he had it momentarily turned off for the sake of improvement during training and, of course, to be fair to the opponent. He lowered his head enough for the elbow strike to miss, getting his head near Tsuchi’s chest as he swung his hand above him, striking Tsuchi’s chin with the palm of his right hand.
“Gnnh!” Tsuchi felt his mouth in pain after being forcibly closed by Kudo’s hand. He tumbled backward a little before falling right on his butt on the mat-covered floor.
“Hah, hah…” Kudo let out short breaths as he made another successful strike to his opponent, despite that he was the member of his party.
“Tsu, you’re way too predictable. Now it’s my turn!”
Turning to his side, Kudo sees Mizuri stepping into the mat, hitting her palm as she closed in with a serious glare on her face.
She was wearing the same clothing as Hinota and Raika, a tank top and shorts combo colored gray which fitted her slim body rather well to the point of looking alluringly rugged. Her braided tail was swept to the side as she prepared herself by putting her body into a stance.
“Don’t think that I’m like Tsu over here,” Mizuri taunted, leaving Kudo to get himself into a stance while Tsuchi pathetically goes back to the sitting bench, his back hunched over and heaving out a heavy sigh.
“Mizuri…” Kudo figured that Mizuri would be even more troublesome to deal with in an actual fight according to Hinota.
“To be honest, I’m surprised that you know a little about how to fight. I figured you would be helpless without your weapon.”
“Heh, figured, huh?” Kudo retaliated with a wry smile. He didn’t know how to respond to that.
“Let’s see how well you can fare against me!”
Mizuri stepped in quickly, catching Kudo off guard by delivering a precise strike below the chest. Kudo intercepted the strike with his hand, nearly activating his sixth sense due to the surprise but he managed to suppress the instinct.
However, Mizuri wasn’t done yet. She delivered blow after blow to his sensitive areas, including his stomach, joints, hands, and even his feet while still making serious rounds to the rest of his body. Kudo could barely keep up by blocking most of them, letting them pass so that he could have enough energy to block the most damaging attacks.
After making a serious round of defending, Kudo spots his chance and strikes back with his own series of blows, surprising Mizuri as she dodged them all in a hurried state. Kudo delivered a punch to her arms, surprising her again that his fists could hit hard as she stumbles backward.
Realizing what she has done, Mizuri watched Kudo step in during that small moment of retreat and moved his feet behind her back leg and his hand on her forehead. He then pushed his hand forward and pulled his leg back with enough force to drop Mizuri down to the floor, her back resting on the sturdy but durable mat and her sweat streaming down her head and body.
Her eyes widened to see that she was down on the ground so soon.
“Pah…” She let out a short gasp, her body stressed for air, as she sees Kudo’s head, darkened by the light above her, extending his hand towards her.
“You okay?” Kudo asked with concern.
“Y-Yeah…” Mizuri finally said after taking Kudo’s hand. “I’m fine. You… You’re pretty good at his, huh?”
Mizuri unexpectedly praised him as he lifts her up to stand, getting her to rub the back of her light blue-haired head.
“Hehe…” Kudo rubbed the back of his head as well. “I am experienced in this, you know…”
“Mmh…” Hinota smiled. “Let’s take a break!”
The E-Plus was left weary, their bodies resting and too tired to even move a muscle. Kuki and Raika were on the floor sprawled from the brawls. Mizuri and Tsuchi were on the benches drinking from their water bottles to rehydrate themselves from the strenuous sweat.
Kudo and Hinota were standing aside from them, seeing the work they have done to their bodies.
“Looks like you’ve been training them pretty well, Kudo. I was worried that they weren’t in top shape,” Hinota said, speaking in praise to Kudo.
“In order to survive, you gotta work hard on strengthening your body. That’s what I taught them,” Kudo said as he sipped from his water bottle, a towel placed over his neck and shoulders to pick up the sweat trailing down his skin.
“Still, it’s impressive. And I noticed that you’ve been training well yourself. You even got a new skill, right?” Hinota recalled Kudo saying something along those lines and asked.
“Ah, yeah, I haven’t shown him to you, did I?”
“Mmh?” Hinota tilted her head from Kudo’s words as he smiled to himself before raising his hand upwards.
Kudo shouted out loud, surprising Hinota which caught the attention of the other members, raising their heads in the same reaction. While Mizuri and Tsuchi were surprised to see this, Kuki smiled and Raika showed a sparkling set of eyes as she instantly jumped up, completely zesty and energized.
The shining magic circle appeared in front of Kudo and summoned the small creature as it formed into existence. Hinota widened her eyes to see the small furry cat with a strange metal plate on his head.
“Myaa!” Shiro cried out, a high tone as usual.
“Hinota, this is Shiro!” Kudo first introduced him to Hinota, then to the members who came rushing in to see what exactly what was summoned.
Their eyes widened while Kuki and Raika came in, especially Raika who knelt down to Shiro’s level.
“Ooh, Shiro, welcome back! It’s good to see you again~!” Raika cooed as she tilted her head cutely and smiled at the young kitten.
“Myaaa~!” Raika lovingly cried out as she rubbed Shiro’s chin which made Shiro purr in response.
“I-Is this your summon, Kudo-chii?” Tsuchi asked while having his hand on his bandanna-covered head in surprise.
“Yep! Though he can’t really do anything…” Kudo let out a dry chuckle.
“Wow, it’s just like hers…” Mizuri eyed at the young kitten, making a comparison to something which Kudo tilted his head over.
“What do you mean?”
“Ah, see, Kudo…” Kudo turned to Hinota, seeing her smile as she looked back at Shiro. “See, I also got a summoning skill.”
“E-Eh?!” Left wide-eyed, Kudo saw Hinota chuckle as she moved forward away from everyone else.
Seeing that she had enough space, Hinota lifted her hand up.
Shouting out her skill, a magic circle, similar to Kudo’s skill, appeared above her hand, colored red like a blazing fire. Then, the same fiery magic circle appeared in front of her, revealing rune texts that spun within the magic circle as it burned into flames, making the circle coated in fire.
Strangely enough, the other party members could not feel the heat coming from it, but they felt that the fire was burning intensely as a creature was being born within the fire. Then, a pillar of fire burst forth from the circle, surprising the other members, and especially Shiro as it cried out in shock.
The pillar of fire dissipated, revealing the small creature that has become alive. It was a black-furred cat with red color on its paws and on the end of its long tail resembling that of flames. It opened its slanted eyes to reveal two sharp looking purple eyes. It shook its head as the small flame on top of its head burned brilliantly.
“Nyaa~” The small cat cried.
“Kyaaa~! So cute!” Raika nearly melted on her feet after seeing another adorable creature come into being.
Kudo and Kuki were left wide-eyed after seeing the small creature become alive while Tsuchi and Mizuri smirked after seeing it again.
“Kudo, Raika, Kuki, and little Shiro, this is Ako. She’s my summoned pet. Treat her well.”
Hinota said as she knelt down to Ako who raised her head for Hinota to pat on. Despite touching the fire, Hinota didn’t seem bothered by it at all so it seemed to be just for aesthetics.
“Nya!” Ako meowed, rubbing up Hinota’s palm with a satisfied smile.
“T-That’s amazing, Hinota!” Kudo smiled as he closed up to Ako by kneeling down as well, getting Ako to look up. “What can she do?”
“When she’s summoned, she gives a small boost to my flames. It’s not much, but just having her around is a pleasure~” Hinota cooed while rubbing Ako’s head, making her cry out more.
“Aww, she’s so cute…” Kudo couldn’t help but reach his hand out to Ako, getting her to look at Kudo’s hand.
Ako then placed her head to Kudo’s hand and rubbed against it endearingly as well.
“Aww, she likes you.”
“Hehe, I’m glad!” Kudo cooed as he rubbed Ako’s head.
Seeing the display, Shiro walked towards Ako, catching Ako’s attention as Kudo released her to get the two to meet each other.
“Myaa~” Shiro called out.
“Aww! Shiro wants to play with Ako…! That’s so cute!” Raika practically squealed at the end as she eyed at the two cats meeting each other for the first time.
“I got to say, it is pretty cute,” Mizuri said as she, Tsuchi, and Kuki looked forward to see how the two react. Kudo and Hinota also waited with bated breath to see the two play together.
However, Shiro suddenly felt a chill through his small body.
“Myaa?” Shiro cried as he notices Ako’s somewhat glazed eyes.
Her slanted eyes then widened, opening her mouth.
“Nyaa~!” Ako cried out with a high tone and pounced right onto Shiro, getting Shiro to cry out ‘Mya~’ in terror as he was taken in by Ako’s embrace.
“O-Oh, my…” Hinota said in surprise as she and Kudo watched Ako tussle and wrestle with Shiro while Shiro tried desperately to get out of it, proving no avail at all.
“L-Looks like Ako really likes Shiro…” Kudo said with a wry smile after seeing Shiro look like he’s calling for help with his eyes, but he pretended not to see them.
Then, as everyone kept looking at them play, eventually, their eyes widened to see that Ako was trying to do something more than just ‘playing’…
“Aaah!” Kuki shouted.
“Whoa!” Tsuchi screamed.
“W-What the?!” Mizuri yelled.
“O-Oh, my!” Raika closed her eyes, cheeks blushing.
“S-Shiro’s getting violated!” Kudo shouted in shock and terror.
“A-Ako! Bad! Bad kitty! Get off of Shiro! That’s very inappropriate!”
Hinota quickly stepped forward to stop the adult display while Kudo goes to help her. Meanwhile, while Raika continues to close her eyes, Tsuchi, Mizuri, and Kuki kept watching the scene with widened eyes.
“Hey… do you think this is what Hinota-chii wants to do to Kudo-chii?” Tsuchi asked, seriously curious about the symbolism between the summoned creatures and their owners.
“Ah, that might be possible…”
Mizuri and Kuki said in unison as they nodded in agreement. The group continued to stare as Shiro’s helpless cries resounded in the training room.
Looks like things are getting pretty nasty on one side. On the E-Plus’ side, it looks pretty nasty in a completely different sense…