Hour Empty Child
It happened way too fast. Too fast for the four members to follow exactly what happened.
As soon as Hikari gave her word to start, Kudo instantly cast his support skill. Plus Pulse—a skill that grants him buffs randomly. Usually, it’s a complete mystery as to what would be buffed; his speed, his strength, or even his defense.
However, Kudo’s newly improved Plus Pulse chose all of them. Each buff was granted to him, giving him the increase he needed to begin his assault. He stepped in and before anyone could predict what he might do as he rushes in, Kudo was already at Hikari’s front, wind shifted about upon his arrival as his eyes were dead-set on her. He gyrated his body, his wooden sword diagonally swinging down right on her like an impending slash of a monster.
“S-So fast!” Raika shouted, eyes widening.
Right as Kudo was about to swing hard, it was met with an equally powerful force. Hikari raised her sword just ever so slightly and caught Kudo’s attack with nary a movement. As soon as contact was made, the air burst forth from Kudo’s strike, surprising the members and scaring the kittens who saw the spectacle of Kudo’s swing emitting a small gust behind Hikari, her long azure hair flowed along with it.
Kudo grimaced. He knew that this level of attack wouldn’t faze her, but to see that it literally did next to nothing, not even flinch her, caused him anguish inside. He clicked his tongue, and Hikari grinned, her eyes furrowed as she pushes him off with a slight nudge.
That ‘nudge’, however, blew Kudo a few meters away, his feet dragging against the wooden floor as it squeaked from the sudden powerful force. The members nearly rose to their feet, the adrenaline coursing through them now as Kudo gathered his bearings by standing upright, swinging his sword as if to relay that it didn’t faze him either.
“Nice, Kudo! I was surprised that you would be the one to take charge first,” Hikari commented, spinning her sword nonchalantly as she spoke. “I figured you would be the calculating type.”
“I figured too…” Hinota said in surprise, as if convincing herself what she just saw.
She knew this more than anybody else. Even when separated for a while, Hinota knew that Kudo wouldn’t respond so aggressively. She stared deeply at Kudo’s state, holding his sword forward with both hands in front of his torso to prepare himself for another attack.
“Hah…” Kudo took a moment to take in a breath, then he exhaled loudly. He was expelling all the nerves that were overwhelming him after that attack.
He rushed in again. Feet flying across the wooden floor, Kudo swung his sword with a vengeance at his mother, who remained calm and cool despite being attacked ruthlessly by her own son.
Hikari responded in kind by blocking Kudo’s sword with ease, and Kudo retaliated that block with another strike towards her torso. Once again, it was blocked with ease.
Strike. Block. Strike. Block. Each exchange flew like a storm, and each hit caused a thud that resounded across the room. Despite Kudo’s best efforts to at least make her winded, he was finding himself painted into a corner even with the space he had around him. The air around him tightened, and his breathing became hoarse.
Hikari was like a statue that never moved, only responding by blocking each attack he made.
Kudo swung his sword with an upper swing, only for Hikari to slightly gyrate her hips and met the attack with another block of her sword. Another burst of air blast forth from the impact.
If they had ordinary equipment, this would be the moment where Kudo’s sword would break from the pressure Hikari emitted. Each of her blocks was like hitting a solid steel wall, his arms quaked and felt numb with each strike, and his lungs were burning from continuous breathing, but he continued to keep striking her for at least some kind of opening.
“M-Master’s just blocking each hit. Man, I would love to do that…” Tsuchi spoke in awe and admiration. As a tank, seeing Hikari block every hit without much issue is like a dream for him.
“She’s not just showing any openings. Is this what it’s like to face a high level adventurer?”
Mizuri’s eyes were glued right on Hikari. Her heart beating rapidly over the adrenaline the match was giving her.
Hinota, however, stayed silent and continued watching, gazing at Kudo’s state with pursed lips and furrowed eyes as if she was studying his every move.
“Kudo, I like your energy. This is exactly what you need when facing a tough opponent,” Hikari took the time to praise him with a smile, stepping back and around Kudo as he continued his relentless battering.
“I know!” Kudo snapped, his tone showing intense frustration as if he practically growled at her.
Kudo’s teeth were gritting, a vein could be seen throbbing on his forehead. This was the first time Hinota saw him this frustrated, though she would be too if she had to face an opponent that wouldn’t even break down in exhaustion.
However, the way Kudo was carrying himself seemed different. Compared to him fighting against Tsuchi and Mizuri, and even to herself, Hinota could sense that Kudo was… seriously aiming to take her down.
Kudo should know more than anyone that taking down his mother is literally next to impossible. Yet here he was, going at her with everything he’s got. Each strike he made, his grunts echoed around the room. With each intended swing, his growls filled the air, surprising Hinota and the others.
“Raaaah!” Kudo bellowed like a beast, his mouth opened wide and his eyes furrowed as he swung his sword overhead towards Hikari as hard as he could.
Hikari blocked it by holding her sword horizontally with both hands, a smile on her face. Kudo showed a look of a snarl on his own face as his eyes began to show a more sharper shape.
“Kudo…?” Kuki, after noticing the odd change in his fighting style, let out his name.
It wasn’t only Kuki. The other party members could also notice this. The fight was becoming harder to watch, seeing as how their gentle leader was slowly becoming more ferocious with each passing second..
“H-Hey, what’s up with Kudo-chii…?” Tsuchi turned down to Hinota sitting a row below him for an answer.
Hinota didn’t respond. She couldn’t because she had no idea herself.
Kudo wailed as he was pushed back by Hikari’s sudden push forward of her sword. He stumbled backward and nearly fell before recovering his balance and stood upright. Heavy breaths ensued from him, his knees nearly buckling and his lungs burning from the constant usage of his stamina.
Sweat riddled his face and down his back as his shirt became caked to his skin. He could see his status, but he refuses to see how battered he was after seeing Hikari showing nothing but a smile without a single sweat marring her face. His emotions were running rampant inside of him like a swirling inferno—Frustration, anger, self-pity, inferiority--and all of it was showing on his face.
“Though, I think you’re getting a little hot-headed. How about taking a breather first?” Hikari smiled, not affected by her son’s radical behavior.
The way she was saying that made it seem like she was mocking him, or at the very least, making fun of his fighting style. Even though Hikari would never mean it like that, the party members felt that her words were pushing Kudo towards the edge.
“Hah… Hah…” Kudo inhaled and exhaled in large quantities, his abdomen heaving outward and inward as he breathed.
He gripped the hilt of his wooden sword, practically crushing it if it weren’t so indestructible.
“Wrrahh!” Kudo roared, pushing himself forward and rushed in after her, but this time, he extended his hand forward. “——《Plus Chain》!”
Surprising the others, Kudo released a stream of chains, white as snow, towards Hikari.
Though Hikari showed a smidge of surprise on her face, she raised her sword to take the attack head-on. The chains wrapped around Hikari’s wooden sword all across the blade like an intertwining boa constricting it.
Then, Kudo swallowed the chains back into his palm. Hikari suddenly felt the incredible pull on her sword from the chains, but despite this level of strength that could bring down an unexpected adult, Hikari stood firm like a mountain and held her sword tight.
Kudo was planning on bringing in Hikari towards him, but it looks like Hikari did not plan on following that.
So he improvised.
He used his legs to give himself a boost upwards into the air. Kudo followed his momentum and, as he absorbed the chains back, swung across the arena using the chains like swinging a vine in a jungle. Hikari’s eyes flew right open as she was used as a pivot for Kudo’s swinging all around her.
Hikari spun on her heel to keep up with his spinning, stopping the chain's progress just enough for Kudo to swing with Hikari pulling him around. It was as though Hikari was swinging Kudo like a roundabout in a park. Then, he absorbed the chains further, getting closer and closer to Hikari with each swing. Though the increased air pressure weighing him down, he raised his sword despite that, his eyes growing sharper as he was ready to strike her.
But Hikari’s brows furrowed. She lifted her knee.
Her knee made direct contact with Kudo’s abdomen the moment he closed in, contorting Kudo’s face into pure shock and pain as driblets of his spit fell out of his mouth. Hikari placed her lifted foot down and delivered another strike towards his side with a high rise kick with the other.
His body was blown away by her slender legs that had enough strength to crush a building, flying across the arena to the unforgiving wooden floor. He skidded across the floor, the sound of his body hitting the floor drew a similar sound to a tossed doll from an angered child.
“Kudo!” Raika shouted, tightening her hold onto Shiro as the small kitten gave a loud cry for his master.
“Master! That’s too much!” Hinota, her slanted eyes furrowing in rage, gripped onto Ako tightly, causing Ako to nearly struggle as she admonished the mother that kicked her child.
But before she could, her eyes flew open alongside everyone else who stared at Hikari. Hikari’s face finally showed something other than a playful smile—eyes full of solemnity for once before looking down at herself after sensing a warm sensation on her abdomen.
A bright orb of light was stuck on her abdomen, beginning to glow brighter and brighter with each second.
Heat expanded as the small Plus Bomb exploded, the sound bursting their ears as a wave of air blew right past the party members, their hair flowed along as they held tight to their seats. Black smoke blanketed the arena, giving everyone a sense of astonishment.
“W-What happened?!” Mizuri shouted, her brows rising upwards in surprise.
“T-That was Kudo’s Plus Bomb! I know that explosion anywhere!” Kuki explained, his mouth hanging wide open in shock.
“He blew up his own mother?!” Tsuchi couldn’t believe what he just said.
As the party members were taken in by Kudo’s sudden drastic technique, Hinota watched the scene further by looking over where Kudo was. She saw him standing up, his hands and arms used as support to bring his body upwards. He shook for a moment, the pain enveloping in his abdomen and left side were stunning him momentarily.
“Ghh…!” Kudo grunted as he stood up to his feet. His body wobbled for a moment before gaining balance and bending his tired knees.
He looked upwards to see the rising cloud of smoke enveloping the entire arena as he breathed heavily to regain his stamina. Kudo knew that this wasn’t enough.
If this was enough to defeat Hikari, there was no way that she would be called the legendary adventurer.
And he was right.
The cloud of smoke was swept away as if a sharp wind flew through it, dispersing it immediately. Coming out of the dispersed smoke was Hikari who was seen with her right arm extended to the side, her brows creased and an upside-down smile on her regal visage. Her eyes looked deadly serious, and since they were directed towards Kudo, it caused his stomach to grumble out of pure nerves.
Everyone else remained silent to hear what Hikari might have to say.
“…Man, you really got me!”
Suddenly, a joyous tone emerged from her as she revealed a big grin while rubbing the back of her head. The look of pride swelled on her face which brought to other members, specifically Kudo, to nearly fall out of place.
“T-That did nothing to her?!” Kuki shouted.
“S-She’s incredible in a lot of ways!” Raika followed up by covering her mouth in shock.
“She’s a monster. Definitely,” Hinota said to everyone which both Mizuri and Tsuchi agreed silently by nodding.
“Forget what I just said!” Hikari shouted. “You were definitely thinking! But you gotta keep up with the attacks because it might not finish off your opponent!”
Once again, Hikari lectured Kudo about the fundamentals of fighting, but Kudo only furrowed his eyes in response as he picked up his discarded wooden sword from the ground, and pointed it right at Hikari.
“Grr…” Kudo growled to himself, but his ferocity was made very clear to everyone else present.
Hikari only smiled as she lifted her sword to place it on her shoulder, “Come on, Kudo, you can’t be running out of ideas already,” she teased.
Kudo gritted his teeth, “Raah!” he rushed ahead, no longer caring about his stamina as he went in like a wild animal. His movements were haggard and wobbly, but he kept going at such an enraged state that it seemed like he was falling as he ran.
The fight was getting to him. Hinota could see it clearly. The continued fight against the powerful adventurer was becoming too much for his young mind to bear. It showed from the way it affected his body’s stamina.
Hikari shifted her weight to face her son head-on as she closed in. Kudo, noticing himself that he was severely weakened without much of a fight, gritted his teeth as he thought that she should know what it’s like to feel weakened as well.
“——《Minus Pulse》!” Kudo was about to move his hand forward and release his wave of negative buffs onto her.
But before he could, he noticed Hikari lifting her right hand forward, a smile on her face as she does so.
Right as Kudo’s hand was shooting out black-colored rings in succession after her, Hikari’s right palm glowed bright, similarly to Kudo’s Minus Clear, widening his eyes.
Before long, the black rings that were shot out suddenly dissipated into nothing.
“W-What?!” Kudo shouted, seeing the small black parts of the rings flowing in front of his eyes before they disappeared for good.
His own skill—gone before he could use it. Hikari, in that short moment, used her left hand carrying the wooden sword towards Kudo.
Kudo’s body contorted by the incoming force of Hikari’s strike, blowing him further away from her, flying across the arena, and finally landing not on the floor, but on the wall instead.
The harsh impact brought everyone to nearly close their eyes to wince after Kudo was flown right to the wall, and it would have made a hole in it if it wasn’t reinforced with powerful materials—making it even worse for Kudo who landed on it.
His body fell to the ground after being stopped by the wall, contorting and twisting in pain.
“Kudo!” Hinota did not care about the match anymore as she ran towards Kudo with Ako in tow.
“That’s match,” Hikari cockily stated, bringing her wooden sword over her shoulder with a grin on her face.
“T-That was…” Raika became too stunned to finish her sentence.
“She stopped the skill from happening? How did she do that?!” Kuki finished her question, gripping his emerald hair on the sides of his head in shock.
“I-Is that how Master was able to get away from the Plus Bomb?” Tsuchi asked, turning to Mizuri.
“Of course not! Then the bomb wouldn’t have activated!” Mizuri snapped back at him, her spirit still ignited from the fight.
“But… that just means that Hikari could have stopped it… but she didn’t.”
Mizuri stared blankly at Hikari who walked forward towards her son in agony as Hinota lifted him up to his butt to check on him, Ako moving to his side as she cried out in concern.
“Master!” Hinota turned to Hikari after she finished checking him, a furrowed look full of rage on her face. “That was too much! Haven’t you ever heard of ‘restraint’!?”
“Restraint? What’s that?”
Hikari’s answer made Hinota realize so many things about her, nearly falling over from the blunt question.
“Hahaha! I’m kidding. Don’t worry, he’s not damaged that badly. He might be in pain, but the swords make it so that he’s only feeling the pain—he won’t suffer from an injury. I wouldn’t even dream of hurting my son.”
“That’s really stretching it a little, don’t you think?!”
Hinota could no longer deal with Hikari anymore as she turned back to Kudo whose eyes remained closed and his teeth gritting, hissing at his stomach pain.
“A-And that skill…” Hinota, however, couldn’t keep her curiosity well-hidden about the skill.
“My skill, Light Negate, allows me to immediately cancel any skill anyone can do. Monsters and adventurers alike.”
Hikari said with a grin. Hinota widened her eyes.
A skill that allows you to cancel other skills? Such a skill is considered the very definition of ‘rare’. If used in a skill book, the price for purchasing such a skill wouldn’t even be possible due to how expensive it would be.
Considering that it’s from Hikari, Hinota suspected that the same skill was used to cancel the raid-boss’ skill whenever she could, making their raids more easier on themselves.
“Everyone, what did you learn from this fight?” Hikari kept tapping her shoulder with her wooden sword as she asked his question.
Kudo could barely lift himself up without Hinota’s help as he looked up to his mother, gritting his teeth. He swore that his stomach was split open in two, much like the time in Vipory when it exploded, but somehow it felt much worse.
“Master, pardon my rudeness,” Hinota answered with utmost respect, but then her eyes glowered and showed a furious image. “But the only thing we learned from this is that you’re a psychopath who just beat up her own son!”
Hinota snapped, pouring her anger and harshness into her words. Though the members believed that Hinota went a little far with that statement, seeing the awful state Kudo was in, they couldn’t help but agree in their minds.
Hikari, however, laughed out loud. “Other than that,” Hikari put it off as she continued her question. “Kudo, did you learn anything?”
Hikari’s sight fell onto Kudo. Her look only made his heart sank lower, feeling worse than his pain. Biting his lip, Kudo answered her.
“…There was nothing I could do. You were… too strong.”
For Kudo, this was like a bitter pill to swallow. Deep inside he knew he would never beat her, but he figured that he would at least shake her, just a little bit. Unfortunately, nothing of the sort happened, which only deepened his sorrow.
Hikari made a sharp sound resembling a buzzer while crossing her arms together to form an X. Kudo raised his right brow in response to this strange action.
“The lesson here is that you shouldn’t slack on training your skills. It’s fine and all to level up your skills’ proficiencies, but you all have to remember to put it into practice.”
Hikari then walked back to the center of the arena, catching everyone’s attention. Hikari turned around her, both hands on her curvy hips.
“You all saw the moment where Kudo used his Plus Chains to catch me, right?”
Everyone nodded, including Kudo.
“And you all saw how he secretly used his Plus Bomb on me while I was distracted, right?”
Everyone nodded again.
“Oh, yeah,” Kuki decided to ask this before they continued. “Hey, Kudo, how did you do that anyway?”
“Ah,” Kudo took a moment. “I used the skill by saying the name with a really low voice. As long as you say it, it’ll work, though I don’t think the power is good enough.”
A skill is used normally when someone shouts the name and pours in their mana through their bodies. Without chanting the skill name, the skill will not activate. There have been studies, actually, whether saying it in a whisper or shouting it in a loud voice affects the potency of the skill.
“Getting back on track!” Hikari shouted which caught Kudo and Kuki’s attention. “And finally, you all saw how I used Light Negate, right?”
Everyone nodded once more.
“See, these times are shown that skills, when used correctly, are much better than just increasing your levels and wearing better equipment. Using your skills correctly is the proper way to survive. I used Light Negate when Kudo was all ramped up on using his Minus Pulse, right? He was shocked because I knew that he never saw me use it. I took him by surprise and got him distracted to realize what happened.”
The four members spoke in amazement as they understood. Hinota had a blank look on her face along with Kudo.
“If you all learn the importance of your skills—study them, learn them, and master them, then you can utilize your powers correctly, and show your true potential. It’s fine to raise your stats, but always remember to focus on yourselves as you do so.”
Hikari puffed out her giant chest and let out a sharp breath as if she has done her duty as an adult to teach the children. The children themselves were left impressed by this simple, yet important lesson.
“And… why is it necessary to beat up Kudo?” Hinota furrowed her brows, not impressed and in fact still angered by this.
“It’s better to learn it with your body, right?” Hikari answered with a bright smile.
Kudo’s head drooped as if he lost all feeling of it as he felt his mother’s love through her kicks and strikes.
“Couldn’t you just tell me instead…?” Kudo groaned.
“But of course, I wouldn’t dare hurt my own baby!” Hikari wiggled her body, causing Kudo’s face to nearly burn from embarrassment and looked away. “If he’s still in pain, then my maids will ease his suffering!”
Hikari then lifted her hand and snapped her fingers.
The doors to the outside were blasted open with sheer force, and four beautiful maids came through it. Two of the maids were holding a stretcher between each other as they came up to the arena and put it down on the ground. The two other maids then grabbed Kudo, completely shocked at the events by the look of his face, and put him on the stretcher before the other two maids lifted him by the use of the stretcher.
The maids then marched towards the exit, Kudo’s wailing echoed as he was dragged away against his will.
“… You know, I’ll never get used to that,” Kuki said in amazement as the others were left in awe.
Fortunately, things went as normal as they can be for the party, but who knows how they see Kudo from now on…?