Hour Empty Child
Being whisked away by the maid squad wasn’t exactly in Kudo’s plans, but much like any other events in his life, it comes unexpectedly.
Looking up at the ceiling, showing nothing but pure white tiles and a blinding light that burned his eyes, Kudo remained at the infirmary of the Alpha Heart guild base. The only expression he could muster were glimpses of frowns on his face, and most of the time, a look of enduring unbearable pain.
The doctor, or the specified healer of the guild, looked after him to, fortunately, see nothing wrong—no internal injuries or permanent damage. Just as Hikari promised, no fatal harm has fallen onto her son, though the pain will last for a while.
The young boy, beaten and battered, heaved a heavy sigh before he heard a knock on the door. He craned his neck to the side to see the door opening up to reveal a similar and beautiful sight he didn’t realize he longed to see.
“Kudo, are you okay?” Hinota eyed him on his bed, showing a smile with a mixture of elation to see him fine and concern for his well-being. “How are you feeling?”
“I’m still alive, at least,” Kudo raised his torso up to respond to Hinota, rubbing the back of his azure hair sheepishly.
The pain aching on every part of his body, specifically on his torso, wasn’t as bad as before now that he took the doctor’s medicinal painkillers to soothe the pain. Now, it is only a mild discomfort.
“Honestly, that woman… She should have at least taken it easy while teaching us a lesson,” Hinota hissed to herself, a disdainful look shown to the side as if showing it directly to his mother.
“Haha, she’s just her usual self…” Kudo replied half-heartedly.
Hinota peered at his smile from the side, and compared it to the look he showed before.
A visage filled with rage. Contorted into a sharp image she believed she was used to on her own face, but somehow it looked less dazzling and more frightening. It was hard to believe that the same gentle-hearted person could ever show such ferocity.
However, looking at him now, he was showing the same usual ‘Kudo’ smile.
“Hinota?” Kudo noticed the intense glaring from Hinota.
Noticing his question, Hinota reacted.
“Ah, don’t worry about it. Anyways, everyone and I figured that we should head out for our first hunt tomorrow.”
“Huh? Why not today? We still got some time…”
“While you were recovering, the day already turned to evening,” Hinota answered as she pulled out her phone from her pocket, and showed the time on the screen to him.
Surely enough, he flinched when he saw that a good couple of hours passed and it was now evening approaching nighttime.
“Also, there’s no way we can go out hunting after the beating you took today, so you’re going to rest,” Hinota admonished with a frown, her hands on her curvy hips.
Even if Kudo said that he was fine, Hinota will still not let him go after being treated like a punching bag for the world’s strongest adventurer. Admitting his defeat, he responded.
“Good,” Hinota flashed a smile of victory.
Eventually, Kudo was taken by Hinota—not against his will this time—to bring him home to the mansion.
Once they reached the living room, they checked up on everyone who called in through video phone. Kudo became astounded to see everyone so frantic on his health, and even more surprised to hear that they actually thought that Kudo might’ve died.
After reassuring that he was alive and well, each one sighed a breath of relief before delving into the topic of their plans for tomorrow. The lesson Hikari taught them were still fresh on their minds, as well as Kudo’s beating, so they took a while having a conversation on such matters.
Eventually, they planned to do this and that for tomorrow, and told each other goodnight before turning off the call.
“Oh, Kudo! I’m glad you’re okay!”
Hikari came into the living room, after having finished her business as always, and spotted Kudo from the distance. She rushed in quickly to grab Kudo by the body with her toned yet slender arms to embrace him with all her strength, leaving Kudo with barely any air for himself to breath.
“Kudo, you don’t hate me, do you? I just wanted to make sure that you learn it with your body. Please don’t hate me, Kudo!”
“A-Alright! Alright, I don’t hate you!”
In order to bring back his air and possibly leave his life intact, he managed to say those words so that he’ll avoid looking so uncool to Hinota who chuckled at the sight.
Once it was over, the two were too tired to continue going despite the early hour. Kudo especially as he went through so much just in one day as he and Hinota traveled along the decorated hallways of the mansion and soon enough went back into their rooms.
They said goodnight to each other before closing the door and headed off to dreamland in their comforting beds and the cool night air breezing in through the windows.
As the morning sun dawned from the horizon, Kudo and Hinota were fresh-faced and brightened as they headed out of the mansion to return to the guild. There they saw their comrades in arms to head out on their first training session.
“Everyone ready?” Kudo turned to face his comrades outside the guild hall, eagerness showing on his face after seeing their jubilant smiles.
“Let’s get going already! I want to kill something!”
Mizuri shouted, grabbing hold of her bo staff with her hands high in the air like she was catching something from above.
“Says the healer of the party…” Kuki muttered to himself.
“What was that?”
“Alright, then let’s head out!”
Kudo raised his fist, ramping up the excitement with everyone else as they cheered in response to Kudo’s cry.
It was time for their training to finally start.
They decided to head out of the city into the fields around Triun. They could go after stronger monsters in far away areas, but first, the party had to make sure that they had good synergy, flawless teamwork that would put veteran parties to shame, otherwise they might run into problems that they can only blame themselves for being careless.
For parties, having synergy in the party with everyone is advantageous. The more people in the party, however, can make achieving synergy difficult to grasp according to their skills and personality.
For example, Kudo and Hinota have perfect synergy, while Kuki and Raika have synergy as expected of childhood friends. Tsuchi and Mizuri were also the same way as the childhood friends, having been friends with each other for years along with their families.
It was obvious that after some time, the former StormPlus party—Kudo, Raika, and Kuki—worked together flawlessly, and so did the EarthFire consisting Hinota, Mizuri, and Tsuchi.
But this time, all of them were coming together to fight alongside with each other. Kudo has never seen Tsuchi and Mizuri worked before, and Hinota was the same with Raika and Kuki.
Even if they had sparred with each other yesterday, it didn’t mean that they knew everything about them.
The E-Plus headed out to the fields around Triun to broaden their horizons with each other by taking down tough foes in their vicinity.
Eventually, they met up against monsters who looked similar to goblins, except that their size was twice as big.
They were ogres; large humanoid creatures that rest deep in forests and create a home for themselves by hunting the animals that lived there as well as the other monsters.
It isn’t the first time Kudo and Hinota faced an ogre. Though the ones back in Peranim completely pales in comparison to the ogres in Roprase, they drew their blades and flashed grins on their faces to fight their enemy.
The area around them had rich brown-colored ground covered in branches and dead leaves.
The trees, in particular, aren’t anything special, but they were bulkier than your usual trees, so it makes hiding behind them more sensible to use against the ogres.
Though some ogres differ, they aren’t usually smart, so they would usually hunt alone. The ogres had something of a rivalry between each other, having the best mate and eating the best food makes them uncooperative with their own race, so fighting them becomes easier as they don’t usually group up.
This was the perfect monster for the E-Plus party to fight against. After hiding behind some very thick trees and scouting the area, Raika noticed the big hulking monster that wandered around with a crumpled up face.
Its large frame of a hulking body looked intimidating, and the sharp fangs protruding from its mouth along with yellow beady eyes only made its grotesque facial appearance all the more gruesome to see. Its sickly green skin bulged from its muscles, and one could see the various scars marring all over its torso, arms, and legs.
The monster looked like its muscles were getting in the way of its walking, lifting one big foot after another while turning its neck to spot out any kind of prey for it to hunt.
However, it was currently spotted as prey by none other than Raika herself.
“Spotted an ogre…!”
Raika whispered loudly to her leaders with the usage of her phone before the ogre suddenly turned its neck to the side. However, Raika’s innate ability to sense danger peaked in, causing her to instantly go back into hiding.
“He’s over at the northeast side—come over!”
After receiving directions, the party followed her word and eventually grouped up together while still hiding their presences behind the thick trees.
Kudo whispered loudly to his comrades, each one hiding behind thick trees while spotting the ogre walking about. His hand hung in the air, his back against the tree as he peered at the ogre along with everyone else that was carrying their weapons close to their chests.
Thankfully, the ogre was just wearing leather armor that barely covered its torso and legs, carrying what appears to be a spiked bludgeon in its right hand. If it were a magical ogre, their magic skills could be able to pick up their presence, allowing it to take them by surprise.
Knowing that they practically had their work cut out for them, Kudo lowered his hand.
Kudo, along with Hinota and Tsuchi, came out of hiding simultaneously, moving in front of the ogre. The ogre stopped in its tracks and furrowed whatever brows it had after suddenly seeing invaders in front of it.
WRAAAH! The ogre reacted with a loud roar that made their ears ache a little. The ogre swung its bludgeon around in a frenzy, trying to scare the adventurers with its big mass and crazed movements.
“It’s trying to distract us! Keep it pinned!”
Kudo knew of its strategy already due to his experience on the battlefield, moving his bastard sword forward to begin the assault. After receiving a nod from Hinota, Tsuchi grinned as he charged forward, swinging his hammer overhead of him to the creature like a running tank.
The ogre noticed him coming and finally decided to strike the incoming tank with its bludgeon.
Tsuchi figured that it would do that. Instead of swinging down his hammer, he angled it in a way that made him block the bludgeon with the head of hammer, causing a clang of metals that resounded in the battlefield, heated sparks flew out into the air.
The ogre’s hands practically felt numb after hitting what felt like a sturdy metal wall. Seeing that the ogre became distracted, Hinota ran with haste, her beautiful fiery form blazing across the field as she closed the distance between themselves in an instant. The ogre couldn’t react fast enough before it used its free arm to block itself from Hinota’s incoming slash.
Blood sprayed about in the air, a red shower glistened from the sunlight. Hinota’s katana delivered a deep cut to its arm, the red carmine splattering all over the earthy ground. The ogre screamed and roared as it backpeddled and dropped the bludgeon, covering the deep gash on its arm with the free hand.
“Get it, Kuki, Raika!”
Kudo turned his head to face the ranged shooters hiding behind the trees. The two childhood friends turned to each other and gave a nod before coming out of their hiding and aimed their guns and bow at the suffering ogre.
Raika notched an arrow to her bow and shot it while Kuki pulled the triggers of his dual guns and shot multiple times at the ogre.
The incoming bullets and arrow made their mark as the arrow pierced its chest and the bullets pierced its right thigh. The roar of the ogre made it clear that it was in pain, but as it wobbled around and put on a swivel from the pain, the ogre’s beady yellow eyes flashed to the closest adventurer it could see—Tsuchi.
The ogre swung down its undamaged arm towards the unsuspecting Tsuchi, too fast for him to comprehend what was happening before getting scratched up on his chest by its nails.
“Gah!” Tsuchi peddled backward, the stinging pain from his wound sent aches throughout his body.
Kudo shouted as Hinota stepped in after Tsuchi to keep the ogre at bay by unleashing several slashes at it. Kudo ran up to Tsuchi who fell down on his butt, seeing the red liquid staining his ripped shirt.
“I got it!”
Turning his head, Kudo sees Mizuri running towards them, her bo staff at the ready as she knelt down to Tsuchi’s side and put up her free hand on top of Tsuchi’s chest.
Mizuri shouted which brought about a small storm cloud on top of Tsuchi’s chest, the small torrent of water forming around his wound as it slowly decreased in size. Kudo widened his eyes to see the healing skill up close and personal himself.
“Alright, you’re good!” Mizuri shouted as the torrent of water dissipated, the storm cloud disappearing in turn.
“Yeah, thanks, Mizuri-chii!” Tsuchi revealed a small grin of gratitude.
The three got up to see the ogre already getting pinned by Hinota who continued to relentlessly strike it down, and the gunners showering it with their ammo causing a storm of bullets and arrows to pierce it multiple times.
“You good to fight, Tsuchi?” Kudo asked as he figured that Hinota and the others could handle this.
“Yeah, I’m all good once I’m healed up!” Tsuchi strutted his fists.
“Good, then let’s keep moving forward!”
The two answered with a nod as they backed up Hinota and the others by charging after the ogre, finishing it off once and for all.
After the fight was over, Hinota delivering the final strike by cutting the ogre’s neck, they continued their grind by hunting more single ogres. Raika scouted the monsters alongside Kuki, and once they found one, they would use the same strategy.
Kudo would sometimes use his Plus Chain to keep an ogre down, all the while the others ganged up on it to finish it off. Some other times, Raika would shoot it with a powerful Shock Arrow that sniped the ogre once and for all. Other times, Tsuchi, Mizuri, and Kuki rained down their onslaught using their ranged spells to finish off an ogre.
Though there were also times when they believed that they were hunting just one ogre, but it turns out that the ogre had company hiding around the trees. The party had the misfortune to encounter this party of ogres which was a rarity among the ogre community. They all have the same goal of eating some good meals, so the ogres forsake their pride and worked together.
“Keep it up! Keep charging or else we’re doomed!” Kudo grunted while gritting his teeth.
He was pulling hard on one ogre with his plus chains. The ogre, its large bulging muscles becoming wrapped by the tight chains, continued to struggle by trying to break free from them, but the durability of the chains and Kudo’s surprising grip strength made it impossible for the ogre to escape.
Kuki continued to shoot his guns at another ogre alongside Raika who kept shooting it with her Etherial Blast skill to save up on arrows. Tsuchi and Mizuri were working together with Hinota to finish off another ogre by getting Tsuchi to keep it pinned with his powerful hammer attacks and earth puppets.
Mizuri and Hinota would stay behind and continue firing their ranged skills, Fireball and Aqua Blast, to keep damaging it in hot and cold temperatures. Before long, the ogre getting bombarded with the ranged spells finally keeled over as it fell to the ground, breathless and unmovable, its charred body smoldering and steaming at the same time.
At the same time, the ogre on Kuki and Raika’s side finally fell after receiving too many shots to count, blood trailing from its various open wounds along with arrows stuck to its body and the gaping holes left behind by the bullets, the casings littered the ground that numbered equal to the dead trees.
Seeing its comrades already falling over, the wrapped ogre looked in horror as the adventurers all gathered around it, their lips curling into devilish grins and their eyes sparkling.
The ogre trembled as it quickly fell from the E-Plus’ power.
After the fight was over, each one of the E-Plus members heard a ‘ting’ sound, a reoccurring sound that meant that each one leveled up.
“Whoo! This is awesome! I didn’t think we would gain so many levels in a short time!”
Kuki shouted, raising both hands in the air with a silly grin after seeing his screen popped up to show his accomplishments.
“I-I was so nervous… but we really grew stronger!” Raika turned to Mizuri, both smiling from ear to ear.
“This is only the beginning,” Hinota turned to the girls with her usual cocky smile, then turned back to Kudo. “We’re not done yet, right?”
“No way!” Kudo answered. “We’re gonna keep going until we reach our quota!”
“Alright!” Tsuchi punched both his hands together. “I’m feeling it!”
“Let’s get ready to rumble!” Mizuri shouted with an upbeat tone and attitude, clutching her bo staff in her hands like it’s ready to break at any time.
Hearing the declaration of their goal, each member of the E-Plus had a fire lit in their cores, all grinning as each one moved ahead for their next grinding spot.
Things are looking well for the E-Plus! With things as they are, they’re just going to get stronger and stronger!